The floods on the Somerset Levels 2 years ago were the worst in living memory. Villages were cut off or became ghost towns as all the residents moved out. Farmers were particularly affected and had to move livestock from their farms at very short notice. The aid that was given by members of the agricultural community and the general public was extraordinary.
Once the water had receded the extent of the damage became apparent. The fabric of the farmhouses and farm buildings needed to be extensively repaired. The reality was that the farmhouses in particular had to be gutted and refitted in their entirety. Whilst this process was taking place the farmers either rented accommodation, lived with relatives or bought mobile homes in which to live whilst some semblance of normality returned.
Before the farmhouses could be renovated it was necessary for them to dry out and this typically took several months. The building work itself also took many months and, in some instances, cost well over £200,000 although this was covered by Insurance. In addition to the insurance, money was received from the Farm Recovery Fund and the fund that had been set up by the Bath & West.
It was also necessary to replace a significant amount of equipment as there had not been enough time to move this off of the farm holding before the flood water took hold. This again was expensive but, in the main, covered by Insurance.
Some of the land that had been flooded needed to be reseeded. Cropping was also affected although some Spring crops could be grown.
The reality is that it has taken between 12 to 18 months to return to some element of normality.
As far as the future is concerned the rivers have been dredged which will help enormously. It will, however, be necessary to continue with ongoing maintenance. Somerset County Council are to include a levy with the Council Tax so that a fund can be built up to deal with any ongoing work that may be necessary. This is aimed at all the community as, due to the road closures that took place, there was also an impact on small businesses in general.
The Environment Agency have been testing the pumps to make sure that they are fully prepared should flooding occur in this manner in the future.
It also remains to be seen what impact there is on land values for the land that is particularly vulnerable to flooding.
The levels have often been flooded but this has usually been restricted to fields where it is accepted that flooding will occur. The extent of the water meant that those fields could not cope with the volume of rain that took place.
One of the results of the floods was the setting up of a Charity called Forage Aid. The objective of the Charity is to support farmers whose livestock have been affected by an extreme weather event by providing forage and / or bedding for those in need. The Trustees of the Charity have been drawn from the Agricultural Community as well as national organisations with a direct interest in farming
Forage Aid sources forage and bedding by way of donations and pledges from the farming community and then distributes this to those in need. They have been helping farmers in Cumbria who have been affected by the recent flooding in that area. Due to the changes in the weather patterns that are occurring it would seem that the need for support from them and similar organisations will be required for many years to come. Further information and the relevant contact details can be obtained from www.forageaid.org.uk
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