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Homemade flood defence holds back the torrent for 'island' property

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: January 08, 2014

  • Douglas Billington in his house on the Somerset levels in the 1990s before he built his own flood barrier

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This remote property has become an island in a sea of flood water – after its owner spent three years building a 6ft-high clay bank to protect it.

Suzette Billington lives 200 yards from the River Tone on the Somerset Levels and her 150-year-old property was flooded nearly every winter.

But after repeatedly bailing out the house her late husband Douglas encircled his two-acre garden with a clay floodbank.

Now, more than a decade later, the flood defences are still holding and widowed Suzette is high and dry as the fields around her are submerged under 3ft of water.

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She said yesterday: "The defence was my husband's idea, he decided the beautiful house did not always need to flood.

"The land has flooded for the past two years and the defence has still held so I'm very grateful for it. I have lots of moral support now I'm on my own, friends bring me things and helpfully drive me to my car."

Suzette and retired Royal Navy lieutenant Douglas bought the flood-prone home in Stoke St Gregory, near Taunton, in 1994.

He and his wife were attracted by the romance of the rural wilderness which flowers into a paradise during summer months.

But each year they paid the price of buying a property which became a lonely island almost every winter.

Flooding was so regular that they kept a boat at the ready tied up outside the living-room window and used it to make the mile-long trip to "the mainland" during flooding.

Suzette explained: "What we did was to put about a three metre bank of clay all the way around the property so the water itself does not come into the house or the gardens."

However, the years have taken their toll on the wall and it has sprung a few leaks.

She said: "It keeps the water out it also keeps it in, so I'm currently pumping out."

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  • Barri  |  January 08 2014, 12:27PM

    Douglas Billington's excellent work should inspire seat-warming DEFRA Agencies to defend with similar structures our roads, villages and towns.

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