Melting snow, ice and the potential for heavy rain has triggered nearly 50 flood warnings across the UK, the Environment Agency said.

Heavy snowfall is forecast to hit northern and eastern parts of the UK and north Wales on Friday (25 January) as the last band of wintry weather during this cold snap moves northwards. Up to 15cm has been predicted to fall on high ground in northern England and southern Scotland.

But farmers are being warned the big freeze will give way to a big thaw this weekend, with increased risk of widespread flooding to farmland.

The Met Office has forecast higher temperatures for this weekend, which will increase from freezing to 10C by Sunday (27 January).

As the widespread thaw sets in, the Environment Agency is warning that river levels are predicted to rise across the country, increasing the risk of flooding.

Farmers in the South West, which has been plagued by repeat episodes of flooding during the past eight months, could be hit worst with reports of heavy rain crossing the region on Friday followed by showers this weekend.

Livestock farmer Minette Batters, who farms 120ha on a tenant farm on the Longford Estate in south Wiltshire, said: “We have got snow melting on ground which is already totally saturated. It’s awful.

“This is the first winter in 40 years on this farm that we have not out-wintered cattle. I just feel sorry for the people that cannot bring their stock in.”

Paul Gunderson, Met Office chief forecaster, said: “With the resulting combination of a thaw of lying snow and the risk of heavy rain there is inevitably an increased risk of flooding in some areas.

“This is the first winter in 40 years on this farm that we have not out-wintered cattle. I just feel sorry for the people that cannot bring their stock in.”
Minette Batters, Wiltshire livestock farmer

“The Met Office and Environment Agency are monitoring the situation very closely and we would advise everyone to stay up to date with the latest weather forecasts, severe weather warnings, and flood warnings.”

Warnings of further wet weather come days after farmers lambasted Environment Agency officials over their handling of flooding in 2012 at a fiery NFU council meeting at Stoneleigh, in Warwickshire on Tuesday (22 January).

Following the meeting, NFU deputy president Meurig Raymond called for a more effective partnership between farmers, government and the Environment Agency.

“New thinking could be: guidelines that make it easier, not more difficult, for farmers to undertake their own maintenance; new partnership approaches between the agency and farmers in some areas and new independent drainage boards would help,” said Mr Raymond.

“We also need to ensure that productive agricultural land is properly valued in terms of long-term value to society so that the benefits of protection are fairly reflected in any flood management assessment.”

More on this topic

Environment Agency’s flood management under fire

See farmers’ photographs of the snow

Philip Case on G+

Follow Philip Case on: Twitter