Torrential rain, lightning and mud: Glastonbury rocks to water music

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Veterans of the Glastonbury Festival discuss mud the way Scots discuss single malts, with curious amounts of retrospective fondness, regardless of the painful sprained ankle or hangover that they cause.

Veterans of the Glastonbury Festival discuss mud the way Scots discuss single malts, with curious amounts of retrospective fondness, regardless of the painful sprained ankle or hangover that they cause.

This Glastonbury will go down as a fine vintage. After a Thursday marked by searing heat, which baked the ground into impermeable concrete, torrential rain fell yesterday morning, accompanied by a stunning natural sound and light show.

Small lakes appeared as if by magic around the main Pyramid stage where the more flamboyant - or out-of-it - festivalgoers waded or swam. Tents were marooned in a sea of muddy water as the entire average rainfall for June landed on Britain's best-loved music festival.

Avon and Somerset police were forced to evacuate four horses after their stables were flooded. Human beings had to fend for themselves.

But as the lower parts of the site quickly found themselves awash in eddies of water, organisers began urgent appeals through radio stations to urge the crowds to stay in their tents until the storm passed.

An official spokesman said that only about 100 festivalgoers had sought help for lost or damaged tents and belongings, but David Osborne, rector of the village of Pilton, said that the welfare marquee had been packed with rain refugees. The festival opened a separate shelter for those badly hit by the flooding.

The BBC, which had been due to begin broadcasting the event at 10am, agreed with organisers to delay proceedings until midday, but the downpour began again within minutes of The Undertones taking to the stage, making a mockery of their hit "Here Comes the Summer".

Much had been learnt since the last heavy rains, in 1998. "Drainage-wise, the site is working," the spokesman said.

Main sealed roads were passable, although even emergency vehicles were struggling in the worst-hit areas. By mid-afternoon, Avon and Somerset fire service brought in pumps to divert the worst of the flooding. Caroline Thomas, for the voluntary festival medical services, said that experience showed it was too early for cases of "trench foot", although that remains a risk. In the meantime, there were minor injuries from falling in the mud.

The forecast predicts more rain overnight and changeable conditions for the rest of the weekend, with sunshine to return on Monday, when the crowds will be heading home. That will be little consolation for Steve Davies, whose fried chicken van was marooned yesterday. The effect on trade? "Drastic," he said.

But some music fans were not worried. "It's great; it can rain all day," Seb Barker, an 18-year-old student from Cambridge, said. "It would be nice if was hot, but it doesn't matter at all. It's the whole spirit, the music and the atmosphere."

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