Damage to Lydney Rugby Club due to floods brought by Storm Dennis are ‘catastrophic’ says the Severnsiders’ chairman Duncan Sleeman, writes Gareth Davies.
However, despite the devastation, Sleeman revealed that Lydney have been astounded by the support from businesses and the rugby community, who have all thrown their weight behind the clean-up operation.
Remarkably, Lydney’s Regentsholme base saw South West One West action take place last Saturday as the Gloucestershire outfit defeated Bridgwater & Albion 42-0. However, the match was abandoned after 62 minutes due to water pooling on the playing surface.
Torrential overnight rain failed to dissipate on already sodden ground and by sunrise on Sunday morning, the Lydney clubhouse was underwater. Speaking to The Independent on Friday, Sleeman explained how the crisis developed a week ago.
“I got a phone call at 8.00 am on Sunday morning from a friend of mine that lives right next door to the club,” he began.
“They said that I ought to get some troops down here because the club is flooding. Nothing has ever happened like this in the entire history of the club and we were formed in 1887.
“I went straight down and about ten minutes later; I was greeted to about four inches of water throughout the club at this point. The water was visibly rising and by 2.00pm, it had gone over welly height.
“We had a newly laid floor in the bar area which was part of a community fund grant and unfortunately, that had to be lifted on Thursday.
“The water had got in underneath and in the drying out process, the floor started to lift.
“We’ve had to hack about 12 inches of plaster off all the internal walls in the club because it was just drenched with river water. All the vinyl floors in the kitchen and bar area have had to be ripped out and I’ve been informed that the internal ceilings have started to sag because of the humidity. They will have to come down and overall, it has been quite catastrophic really.”
In every negative situation, there is always positives to be found and despite the damage, Sleeman refused to be downbeat and placed on record his thanks to those that have helped so far.
“The support has been absolutely unprecedented and taken us all aback,” he added. “You can’t put this into words, and we can’t thank people enough. For example, we have had an offer today from Edenstone builders who are in the process of putting up an estate in Lydney.
“They have said that when we’re at a point when the club has dried out enough, they will start to throw tradespersons at us. That is an amazing offer.”
Rugby has also unsurprisingly done its bit in Lydney’s hour of need with Welsh referee Nigel Owens donating a signed shirt to auction off. Closer to home in Gloucestershire, clubs such as Thornbury have also been supporting their near neighbours.
“You will never take rugby away from its own community,” remarked Sleeman. “We have had clubs all over the country donating money to our crowdfunding appeal. The one that really sticks in my mind is an under-11 club from Thornbury who gave us £400. That is absolutely phenomenal.”
Remarkably, given the damage caused, Sleeman was optimistic that Regentsholme will be able to host Lydney’s next scheduled home match against Cleve on Saturday, March 7.
“If you were going to have a flood, then timing wise, when it has happened gives us the best opportunity of being back up and running quickly,” he said. “We haven’t got a first team home game for two weeks and when you look at it from that angle, it could have come at a far worse time.
“If it had happened just before Christmas then it would have destroyed us with several big home fixtures during December.
“We haven’t got a game until early March and I am optimistic, because of the way the community have pulled around, that we will be back up and running before that next home game.”
Meanwhile, club press officer Roger Pike, who contributes Lydney’s match reports for The Indy said the generosity and support received has been ‘remarkable’.
“The support has been incredible,” said Pike. “I was down at the club on Thursday and two random blokes who nobody knew just turned off and offered to help.
“But it’s not just people helping on the ground that have heartened us. I was in my local supermarket in Chepstow, which is a fair way from Lydney. I had my club jacket on, and an elderly lady came and gave me £10. That kind of generosity is remarkable and nearly reduced me to tears.”
PICTURE: DAVID ARNOTT