A Horsham man whose quest for holy water ended when he was stranded by flood waters has paid tribute to the firefighters who rescued him.
Neal Pearce, 46, who lives in Owlbeech Way, was driving back to Horsham from Glastonbury with a friend and his girlfriend on December 23 when his car became stuck in deep water just outside of Kirdford.
After wading through thigh-high deep water they decided to call firefighters, and were rescued by a crew and taken back to Petworth.
Neal said: “I think all of us were all very impressed because they were very stretched that night but they were very prompt to get to us.
“Also they were in peril themselves when a tree fell when they got to us.”
He added: “I really thought we were going to be stuck and not be able to get home.
“It was quite a relief to get home and get out of clothes that were soaked.”
The group had decided to visit Glastonbury, in part, to pick up some water from the Chalice Well, a natural spring famous for its high iron content and medieval myths surrounding Joseph of Arimathea and the Holy Grail.
As they headed back with their 16 litres of water they were diverted away from the A272 due to the torrential rain and flooding and ended up driving through Kirdford.
When the car ‘ground to a halt’, they abandoned the vehicle and waded towards a bridge on the Kirdford Road. However, after a few hundred metres the group were ‘shivering like hell’ and decided to call West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service.
Neal added: “It was very dark at that stage, we probably should have thought ‘we have come down a dip here’, but it was not a huge river and it just looked like there was a deeper bit of water and I did not realise the water was rapidly rising.
“If we had got there 45 minutes earlier we might have got through.”
He added: “I never felt we were in a desperate torrent of water, but it was the cold, and overhead we had these trees with branches already going down.
“It was dangerous where we were but not some horrific torrent of water, but it was a moving mass of water that we did not know what was behind it.”
Firefighters took them back to Petworth Fire Station, where they were given tea and cake, before a friend took them home.
When Neal returned on Christmas Eve to pick up valuables from the car, he was given a lift through the flood waters by a farmer on his tractor, and Neal was keen to pay tribute to the man’s kindness.
He explained: “He would not accept some money, but I shook his hand and said he was a star. All I would say is do not underestimate the weather. There is a danger you get these ‘cry wolf’ situations, but it can be even worse than predicted.”