Somerset community pulls together to combat floods... with Plasticine
Martin Hesp reports on the unique bulldog spirit in one flood-hit corner of Somerset...
It might have been a night of misery, discomfort and even danger – but two unlikely elements came to the rescue in one of the West Country’s worst hit flooding areas this weekend. They were Twitter and Plasticine.
Twitter – because the social networking site was providing an instant information service for people trying to get home across the region as the rain kept falling after midnight on Saturday…
And Plasticine – because it was offering a single ray of hope to a clutch of besieged householders who were using it to seal up their properties.
“The water in my house would have been over two feet deep if it hadn’t been for the Plasticine,” commented householder Andy Ford, in Williton in West Somerset.
“This area gets flooded so we have flood doors, but they leak. So we sealed them with this putty stuff my neighbour brought over. We were flooded – but we only got about two inches instead of two feet.”
The neighbour was artist Tad Mandziej whose Williton home has been inundated before: “I’ve got a big sack of modelling Plasticine and I use that, along with sandbags, to keep the water out,” he told the Western Daily Press.
“We can’t protect all the house - some of it got flooded last night as well as my workshop and barn – but we did manage to protect the kitchen and living room.”
Photographs of central Williton under two feet of water appeared on Twitter shortly after midnight on Sunday morning, which was enough to warn 100s of late night travellers in the area that the junction of the A38 and A358 roads was impassable.
In fact, the whole of West Somerset was effectively cut off from the rest of the world as its two main entry roads became blocked in many places.
At an event in the village of Roadwater starring Neil Innes (of Monty Python and Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band fame) many members of the audience were forced to stay the night with friends.
But one man who braved the conditions was the landlord of the pub where Mr Innes was staying… “We only just got home,” said John Thomson, of the Hood Arms at Kilve. “Our cab driver was brilliant he – realised we’d never get through in his ordinary cab so he went home and got his big 16-seater minibus and picked people up all over the place.
“It was all a bit hairy. We’d nearly reached Kilve when we came across a Mercedes with water over its bonnet. Two lads climbed out the window and pushed it out of the flood – but it was only afterwards that they realised how wet and cold they were, so we gave them rooms for the night.”
At the same time six people were being rescued from rising waters at a seaside caravan park just a few miles to the west.
“Our team went out to check things at 12.50 and saw that the water was coming up around some of the units,” explained Paul Harper, of Blue Anchor’s Hoburne Holiday Park. “They came across one elderly man and decided it wouldn’t be a good idea for him to stay where he was – and at the same time they called the emergency services.
“They were fantastic – they were on the scene within 10 minutes – and the elderly man and five other elderly people were evacuated to our reception area and given tea and coffee and everything else to make them comfortable. Then it was simply a matter of waiting for the tide to go out so that the flood water would pour away.”
Throughout the West Somerset area on Sunday morning teams were clearing culverts or using earth-moving equipment to clear the scores of mini-landslides that were blocking local lanes.
High, thick, West Country hedgerows might be environmental wonders, but they can help turn roads into rivers. Across the area highways great and small were playing host to deep standing water while the surrounding fields remained high and dry.
One such lane – the road from Williton to Doniford on the West Somerset coast – remained nothing more than a two-mile long flood yesterday morning.
Back at Mr Ford’s Plasticine protected house, several members of Minehead Rugby Club were helping with the clear-up. One told me: “We were out half the night helping friends and, you won’t believe this – we went to one woman’s flooded house to help take the furniture upstairs and she told us to take our boots off!”
Just a few 100 metres from the house in question, punters at Roadwater Village Hall were applauding live renditions of songs Neil Innes wrote for Monty Python in the Sixties.
The words of a laconic doorman, who was looking out at the falling rain, would have applied to that woman: “He ought to play Always Look on the Bright Side of Life”.
“Dunno about that,” shrugged his colleague. “But I do know Neil Innes starred in a TV series called Puddle Lane.”
SOMERSET NOVEMBER FLOODS - VIDEO AND PICTURES
Sunday, November 25
Friday, November 23
Wednesday, November 21