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 The Kimpton Village Flood

   The re-emergence of the River Kym(e), February 2001









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Kimpton Village is built along the course of the former River Kym or Kyme which it is thought flowed down what is now Claggy Road and the High Street to the River Mimram, halfway between Kimpton and Codicote.  The river is known to have appeared briefly in 1947 but in February 2001, due to an unprecedented amount of rainfall since the previous September, it emerged again followed its natural course from Netherfield Springs (near Breachwood Green), through Kimpton, to join the Mimram at Kimpton Mill.  

There is very little information about earlier floods, but the following was found in a Parish Magazine:

“Copied from Kimpton Parish Magazine No. 147 of 1895

KIMPTON IN 1795 (extracted from the parish records) - Severe frost for six weeks. Wheat at 9/6 per bushel. The frost began to break on February 8th; the thermometer in a room had been as low as 20degrees. On Monday, February 9th, there was a flood in Kimpton in consequence of the thaw and the impenetrability of the ground. The low road at the bottom of the vicarage gate to within a furlong of Kimpton mill, a length of two miles, had all the appearance of a powerful river: not the least part of the road could be seen. The melting snow upon the higher ground poured down upon the road in various rapid currents and formed a body of water in some places four feet deep, but in general two feet deep throughout the whole length of the road. One half of the houses in Kimpton were twenty inches deep in water. No horse could stand against the current in safety. Timber trees that lay on the side of the road of considerable size were whirled round and carried down the stream. General consternation prevailed amongst the inhabitants on the south side of the road for their furniture, which could with difficulty be saved. About 7 p.m. it began to abate after a continuance of twenty-eight hours. About three the following morn it had quite subsided. All that day the inhabitants were busy in recovering their floated property, and in mending the torn up roads.”

Fortunately, these days, thanks to the emergency services and the benefit of paved roads and drains, there was less dramatic damage.

The following account of the disaster is taken mainly from a North Herts District Council report to the Executive Committee.

The source seemed to come from a  spring about 8km north west of Kimpton and the water from it flowed down the valley, fed by other springs, along the route of the old River Kym until, by the time it reached the Industrial Units on Claggy Road and the north west end of Kimpton, the flow was in the region of 1,000,000 gallons per day.

As the water flowed down the valley it collected in natural and man-made hollows in the ground forming lakes of various sizes.  The largest of these was situated at Whiteway Bottom where the road known as The Causeway crossed the valley on an embankment approximately 2 - 2.5 m high.  Water had collected upstream of the embankment and formed a lake which was estimated to contain approximately 3,000,000 gallons.  Another, smaller, lake formed further down the valley at The Holt.  The water from the two lakes flowed over the respective roads and continued down the valley to Kimpton, the lowest point of the old river bed.

The situation became serious over the week-end of the 24/25 February 2001 when the business owners from the Industrial Estate and residents at risk in Claggy Road hired pumps and called the Fire Brigade to try to deal with the water flow which by this time had flooded the northern end of the Industrial Estate to a depth of approx. 1 metre.  North Herts District Council, the Police and Fire Service were all involved at this stage and the situation was declared a Major Emergency by the Police. 


The flow of water was gradually brought under partial control by the use of pumps and sandbag dams.  The water was diverted along Claggy Road to its junction with the High Street, where it flowed across the junction and eventually flowed in to the water drainage system under the road.  This system carried the water approximately 2 km east along the Codicote road to a balancing lagoon near Kimpton Mill. A breach was made in the side of this lagoon to enable the surplus water to flow over adjacent water meadows for 1/2 km, eventually discharging into the River Mimram which  had sufficient spare capacity to accommodate the additional flow of water.

In order for the village to carry on its daily business, a temporary bridge had to be constructed across the "river" running alongside Claggy Road in order to provide access to Commons Lane, and a small pedestrian bridge had to be constructed to give access to the Corner Stores. North Herts District conducted regular meetings with the Parish Council and residents, keeping everyone well informed of the situation. NHDC kept up 24 hour surveillance for several months until the flow subsidised.  A temporary solution was devised to re-route the water which involved piping it through the gardens of 5 residential properties, then under Park Lane to the drainage system under the High Street. 

Member of Parliament Peter Lilley was involved and he managed to obtain funding from the Government under the Bellwin system.  The total cost of the disaster was approximately £500,000, of which NHDC had to find £24,000, the Government funding the remainder.

Looking up Claggy Road from the High Street, with the Corner

Stores on the left (photo by Ron Brooks).

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The new lakes up towards its source

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In the industrial estate

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Diverting the flow (photo courtesy of NHDC)

Text Box:

Command centre (photo courtesy of NHDC)

Other photos are by Catherine Tees


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