From drought to deluge, the county was hit by a year of extremes
AS far as Christmas presents go, a £48,000 bill for brickwork repair would not be the most welcome.
But for flood victim John Ridgard, it was what he unwrapped for the festive holidays as the financial reality of the huge levels of rainfall which soaked Derbyshire last year became clear.
And such was the damage caused by the flooding to his Findern family home back in July, he did his unwrapping in a two-bedroom bungalow in Mickleover – a temporary home while his is repaired.
The 60-year-old said he thought it would be at least another six months until he and wife Linda could move back in.
He said: "It was so dirty, such a mess that we had to move out. The bill for the brickwork was £48,000. And that's just to repair the bricks, never mind the furniture, the carpets, the furnishings or anything else. Just the bricks.
"It's devastating. We had a Christmas, squeezing 11 people into a two-bedroom house, but it wasn't the same. We normally have everyone in the house in Findern. But not this year."
His home was flooded when sudden, torrential rain caused water to burst through grass verges at the side of the A38 and flow straight through the village. It came in through the closed doors of his house at about 2am on Friday, July 6, reaching about shin-high.
John and Linda awoke to find the lower floor of their home soaked in muddy water. They frantically tried to bail it out, but to no avail. When the water had receded, it left mud, silt and an inescapable dank stink.
Insurers told the couple they would have to move out while their home of 11 years was repaired.
John said: "What I find hard to deal with is who can you blame? It's not like we live on a flood plain, it has barely happened before.
"And now you fear the point in the future where you might want to sell your house.
"It'll just be known as a flood risk, when it really isn't."
During a year of near- relentless rain, John was far from the only casualty of the weather. The numbers have been immense.
Amateur weatherman Philip Singleton, of Chaddesden, said that from Wednesday, December 19, to Christmas Eve the city experienced 76mm of rain.
That was nearly eight centimetres of rain in five days, when the average rainfall for the whole month of December is 67mm.
And that was just December. The year as a whole was extraordinary.
Mr Singleton said: "The records I have for Derby go back more than 160 years and 2012 is currently the fourth wettest year. The wettest year to date was 1848, when Derby had 1,018mm of rain.
"The average for Derby for a year is 697mm and we have beaten that with 975mm."
The Met Office has released figures that show Derbyshire experienced its wettest year last year, with a total rainfall of 1,220mm, since its records began in 1910. It was also the wettest county within the East Midlands.
But at the start of the year, the situation was the other way around.
Back in April, the Environment Agency stated that Derbyshire was officially in drought, after just over 40% of the average amount of rain fell in February and March.
The Derby Telegraph talked to farmers and wildlife experts about some of the effects this was having. Residents were warned to use water wisely.
Later that month, the first flood alerts were issued for the county after a few days of heavy rain, but the first real dousing came in early July. On Friday, July 6, nearly two weeks' worth of rain fell in the space of a morning.
Throughout the county, roads became rivers and homes were flooded as torrential rain lashed down.
In villages like Breadsall and Ockbrook, people were left scrabbling for buckets and sandbags as water gushed through the streets towards their front doors
The soaking led to popular Derby events, like the Race For Life and the Derbyshire Pride festival, being cancelled because of waterlogged ground.
At Redhill Primary School, in Ockbrook, pupils were sent home after rainwater surged into the school grounds, flooding the building's IT suite and classrooms.
In Hilton, around 40 pigs and piglets, along with crates of chickens, had to be rescued from floods at Willow Orchard Farm, in Uttoxeter Road, when the nearby brook burst its banks.
There was a summer, of sorts, with some baking hot days in the city and county, but still the season was the wettest in 100 years, with twice the normal rainfall from June to August.
Dan Williams, at the Met Office, explained the unseasonal downpours as the result of an unusual positioning for a high-altitude belt of wind called the jet stream.
He said: "Normally at this time of year, the jet stream would be to the north of the UK. But, over the last few weeks, it has been very southerly. It is this which has created the low pressure which, in turn, has led to the rain we've seen."
But come autumn, weather experts were predicting more heavy rain, only this time with no wonky jet stream to blame.
And, as November came to a close, it arrived in Derbyshire with little in the way of a polite greeting.
Overnight on Thursday, November 22, the county was again lashed by the heavens, bolstered by high winds.
Hardest hit once more were the villages, especially those in South Derbyshire – places like Willington, Egginton and Rolleston.
More than 30 people in Willington were asked to think about leaving their homes when floodwaters started to rise. The A38 from Burnaston to Lichfield was shut for hours, which sent drivers piling into B-roads and side routes in a crush to get home, jamming the south of the county in miles of traffic.
But the city did not escape, either. Peter Holland-Lloyd, of Otter Street, Darley Abbey, woke to find that the bottom of his garden – which overlooks a jitty running along the top of Darley Park – had collapsed, sending brickwork, soil and garden furniture down to the walkway below. It meant that the path – Darley Grove – had to be closed.
And repair work is still being carried out to clear the jitty and rebuild the garden.
Soon afterwards, temperatures started to drop, plummeting to -4C in parts of the county, causing surface water to freeze.
And there was no let-up for the holiday season, with closed roads, train delays and flooded farms as late as Christmas Eve.
Roger Hosking, owner of Highfields Happy Hens, in Etwall, was struggling to sell his Christmas turkeys ahead of the big day because nearby Heage Lane was under water.
In a generous conclusion, a friend read about Mr Hosking's plight in the Derby Telegraph and sent him a cheque for £3,000, which enabled him to give the turkeys away to care homes.
So what will the year ahead be like? Based on the unpredictable lurching from wet to dry conditions we saw last year, it is hard to say.
Philip Singleton, whose regular and accurate predictions in this newspaper belie his status as an amateur weatherman, said it was impossible to give any indication.
He said: "The weather in this country is just too variable to say. You can look at the next 10 days but you can't say what it will be like in the summer.
"But a repeat of the kind of rain we've seen this year would be extraordinary. It has been one of the wettest years I've seen."