Herefordshire is one of the least populated counties in England. There are, I believe, only about 191,000 people living here, though we have a large number of cattle and sheep and one of the most beautiful landscapes you could ever wish to see. Four times in the past four months homes and businesses have been flooded out while farmers have had to watch as their fields and orchards have disappeared under several feet of muddy brown water. Medieval churches have been flooded — an almost unheard-of event, and an indication that this is no ordinary flooding — roads have broken up under the stress of water pressure and there is a general dankness almost everywhere, along with piles of debris. There have been many acts of quiet heroism and neighbourly concern which show the goodness and generosity of local people, while Dave Throup, our Environment Agency Manager, has won himself a fan club for his diligence in keeping everyone informed about what is happening. Our local Anglican clergy have been out and about while here at the monastery we have done our best to be as supportive as we can to those in distress. Often it is a tight-lipped distress that manifests itself in irony or the kind of joke that most outsiders would scarcely recognize for what it is: a brave, bold attempt to go on and face whatever comes with gentle humour and persistence .
We are told that this week is likely to see further flooding as river levels are rising again and the ground is saturated. For a few days Herefordshire and our adjacent counties of Shropshire and Worcestershire have attracted the attention of broadcasters, but one wonders what will happen when the waters eventually begin to subside. No doubt we shall be forgotten again. For that is one of the messages we are receiving here at the monastery, that Herefordshire is largely forgotten at Westminster. People are not angry about it, but they are beginning to be tired. The North attracts attention; the West Country attracts attention; Herefordshire not so much. It is sad that only suffering makes the headlines.
Please pray for the people of Herefordshire, and everyone affected by the floods. Resilience is a beautiful quality but how quickly we shall all recover from the impact of the floods is, this morning, difficult to guess. As nuns, our duty is to pray and offer what help we can here at the monastery. I hope it will be enough. The Church does not exist in a vacuum apart from society but must be in its midst — in muddy boots and waders, if need be.