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Somerset Levels flooding: Farmers unite in face of devastation by deluge

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: June 19, 2012

  • Heather and Gerald Venn on part of their 82 acres they farm at Curry Moor, beside the River Tone, at Stoke St Gregory

  • John Rowlands of the Environment Agency watches floodwater from Curry Moor being pumped into the Tone at Curload in May

  • Somerset photographer Alain Lockyer captured this view of the flooded Levels earlier this week

  • Jeremy Browne MP has visited the flood damaged land at Curry and Hay Moor, near to Stoke St Gregory

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Farmers whose livelihoods have been “devastated” by flooding on the Somerset Levels are appealing for help from the agricultural community to keep going.

Some face the prospect of having to sell their livestock because heavy rainfall has completely destroyed hay stocks and land has been left unavailable for animals to graze on.

One farmer, from Chippenham in Wiltshire, has already offered to give his hay to farmers who have had their land ruined. Guy Senior was moved enough by the plight of those working the land 50 miles away to donate the stock and now farmers on the Levels hope others will follow his example.

Heather Venn, a farmer from St Gregory, saw 90 acres of her farmland completely ruined by floods. It is estimated that it could take up to three years before the land is usable again.

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Following all of her stock running out, she was delighted to accept help from generous and supportive farmers.

“I’m just bowled over by the offer from this farmer,” she said. “We’re still reeling from the damage. We’re just trying to go on a day-to-day basis and we’re just about coping.

“I actually wrote to Guy yesterday to thank him, it just makes you realise that people do care.”

She went on to appeal to any other farmers who might be able to help in the same way as Mr Senior.

“If they’ve got any spare hay to give, we’d definitely welcome it. I know another farmer who is desperately seeking organic seeds so that he can keep his organic status. People can send anything, if they can.”

The donation has been commended by district councillor Jill Slattery, who says it is a reflection of the kindness of the farming community.

“Clearly, it’s someone who understands the difficulties that local farmers have to suffer. I know farmers have been very delighted and comforted and touched by this farmer’s generosity.”

As of yet, no scheme has been proposed to help drain land and prevent similar damage from happening as a result of future floods.

Originally, farmers had suggested dredging the Rivers Tone and Parrett. However, the Environment Agency claimed it would be too expensive.

Now local farmers and councillors are suggesting a pipe which would cut into Northmoor under the A361. Ms Slattery says it would be the “perfect” solution.

“It’s a win win. There has been devastating damage and it needs quick decision making. There needs to be a certain level of investment to remove this water to Northmoor.”

But farmers claim that once again, money will be an issue.

“We’re being told very clearly that the money just isn’t there to do these things,” said Ms Venn. “At this point, we need to look to the Government for help.”

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  • Charlespk  |  June 19 2012, 11:46AM

    Now we know for sure why our forefathers drained the levels and kept them drained. . Will they ever apologise for turning it all back to wetland again? . . Only when pigs learn how to fly!

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  • nigant  |  June 19 2012, 10:17AM

    Such a cruel irony, considering we have only just had drought warnings lifted! I feel for the farmers, specially in Stoke St Gregory, as I used to live in Meare Green many years ago.

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  • nigant  |  June 19 2012, 10:16AM

    Such a cruel irony, considering we have only just had drought warnings lifted! I feel for the farmers, specially in Stoke St Gregory, as I used to live in Meare Green many years ago.

  • nigant  |  June 19 2012, 10:16AM

    Such a cruel irony, considering we have only just had drought warnings lifted! I feel for the farmers, specially in Stoke St Gregory, as I used to live in Meare Green many years ago.

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