Reporter Sarah Jones on the flooding in Cookham

Sarah Jones Sarah Jones at the river in Cookham, where the army is setting up sandbags

As a GNS reporter, Sarah Jones is used to facts, which are by their nature clinical and clear-cut. Her latest news story, however, is a little different.

Jones lives in Cookham, a picturesque village on the banks of the River Thames in north-east Berkshire. While the river gives the village immense charm, today it is causing its grief.

The residents of Cookham are braced for flooding, an event that means Jones has been reporting from outside her house. She has an internet connection, broadcast kit and cabling that snakes out of her window onto the street. She's been getting out and about on foot to interview her own neighbours.

It's a 'surreal' situation, the reporter tells Ariel. 'I've never reported on a story before that has affected me so closely. When you have flood waters rising outside your front door, it is surreal.'

Cookham, February 2014 The flooded moor and road in Cookham

The journalist adds that she feels 'detached' from the story as soon as she puts her headphones on. 'I have to be impartial,' she says. 'I'm just reporting what I see and the facts as I learn them.'

A thousand sandbags

The facts are as follows - the army delivered about 1000 sandbags to the village on Wednesday, the first significant delivery since the worst of the flooding started last week. Three roads into the village have been closed because it's too dangerous to drive through the deep water. Residents - which number about 5,000 - are using an old causeway to get in and out. This single-track road is only open at certain times and has to be shared by both cars and pedestrians.

Jones - who grew up in nearby Wooburn Green - moved to the village about a year ago and has owned her house for two. It hasn't been flooded yet, but she has taken sensible precautions, such as moving the furniture upstairs, and putting sandbags and a silicone barrier against the frame of the door. She knew when she bought the 300-year-old house that it might be vulnerable to flooding and bought insurance.

She and her partner checked old records and couldn't find evidence that it had been invaded by rising river water, although they also knew that the entire village did flood in 1947.

On Monday about two inches of water came close to the front of the house, but the journalist says it has receded for the time being, giving people a little breathing room. It is expected to rise in the next 24 hours, however.

Cookham, February 2014
Prepare for worst

'I've mentally prepared myself for the worst,' she says, adding: 'I don't quite know how I will feel if [the house floods]. But, you know, there isn't much you can do. I'm being realistic - it could well flood and if it happens we'll just have to deal with it.'

This doesn't mean people aren't anxious. Her neighbours, she explains, are peering through windows. 'People who have lived in the village for 10 or 15 years have said to me it's the worst they've ever seen it and they are worried, but you know, the village itself has flooded in years gone by. That's before there was a flood alleviation scheme put in.'

In the meantime, Jones admits it's impossible to relax. She's been up in the night to check the Environment Agency website and she's been using a bench near her home to judge how much the water has risen or fallen.

The bench had only recently been completely swallowed by water, but was just visible again on Wednesday. Other residents are using similar markers.

Jones does put the ordeal into context, explaining that it's nowhere near as bad as nearby Wraysbury and Datchet. 'People are waiting to see what will happen. That's how they are feeling - they are waiting and wondering. It's the unknown.'

As a reporter and Cookham resident, she can only wait with them.


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