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Sun shines on Levels' symbols of hope

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: March 17, 2014

By Tristan Cork

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For almost three months, it has been a road in theory only, a symbol of the Somerset Levels flood disaster only good for travel by boat.

But with the sun shining and warm temperatures at the weekend, the A361 across the Levels is now fully navigable by car.

The receding waters might have left behind a thick layer of sticky brown mud across farmyards, fields and gardens, but as the long clean up gets under way, there was renewed optimism when the A361 welcomed its first car.

There was no fanfare or ceremony, although in Muchelney – now finally freed from its flood-imposed island prison – there was gratitude and a warm welcome to an unusual delegation bringing gifts.

The Bishop of Taunton, the Rt Rev Peter Maurice, welcomed the Indian Muslim Welfare Society to the long-marooned Somerset village after meeting them in Thorney.

The IMWS had travelled all the way to Muchelney from Batley in Yorkshire to present a donation of £16,000 to the Western Daily Press-backed Somerset Community Foundation flood appeal fund.

"This is such a wonderful gesture of solidarity from one community to another," said Bishop Peter. "It's heartening to find that rural communities in distress in Somerset are getting support from Muslim communities in Yorkshire.

"We're very grateful to the Indian Muslim Welfare Society and to all the individuals who have generously contributed to the collection. We are deeply grateful for their expression of kindness, compassion and care for those affected by the flooding."

Bishop Peter showed the group from Yorkshire how the church in Muchelney acted as the central hub for the flood relief effort, and then took them to Burrowbridge to see the work undertaken by the hard-working army of Muslim and Sikh volunteers who turned up in Somerset at the height of the flood and offered to help in any way they could. They also met families who are already benefiting from the SCF flood fund, which the Western Daily Press revealed just last week had passed the £1 million mark.

Bishop Peter added: "The response has been humbling. The work to rebuild homes and livelihoods is a long-term task for communities that have been left feeling very bruised by the winter's flooding. We thank God for those who have given so generously and we continue to hold all of those affected in our prayers."

The fund has already started giving relief donations and grants to those affected by the flood disaster. More than £230,000 has been granted to more than 300 households, and the support has recently been extended to be made available to local businesses and charities affected too.

"The generous donation by the Indian Muslim Welfare Society in Yorkshire will be put to good use in helping to rebuild lives and livelihoods damaged by the flooding here in Somerset," said Justin Sargent, the chief executive of the fund. "It is a kind gesture from the Muslim community in Yorkshire and we are very grateful for their contribution."

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