Dramatic animal rescues in flood hit West Country

Farmers across the south-west of England have been struggling following torrential rain, with widespread flooding causing property damage and dramatic animal rescues.

Parts of the region received a month’s rain in just 24 hours, causing rivers to burst their banks and sweep away roads and bridges. In Somerset, firefighters were called out to rescue drowning sheep from a field at Batemans Farm, Chard. But the firemen became trapped after the bridge leading to the field collapsed, and had to be airlifted out by a coastguard helicopter.

RSCPA inspectors managed to rescue the sheep, ferrying them to safety via boat, which they then used to transport workers who had become stranded at a nearby factory. “It was a long but very satisfying day. We were so glad we were able to help those animals in distress,” said inspector Amanda Swift. “There is no doubt that the sheep would have drowned if we had not been able to reach them.”

Devon and Somerset Fire Service were also called out to rescue cattle from a field under a metre of water. And farmers at Curry Moor faced further flooding after months of battling against stagnant water created in the April rains. “It’s not as deep and wide as it was in April, but the fields are covered again,” said Tom Jeanes, who keeps beef cattle at Lawnmoor Farm, North Curry.

“Water is still overflowing the banks of the river, and is up to a foot deep here; further down the valley is it three feet deep and will probably rise another foot – assuming it doesn’t rain any more.” Mr Jeanes had to sell 38 of his 84 cattle last month, as much of his pasture was now lying barren. “I can’t graze the farm and I have no food left to house all the cattle. I’m still waiting for the weather to dry up so I can make hay on the higher ground.”

Tim Price, a spokesman for NFU Mutual, said the firm had received 22 flood insurance claims in the South West so far. “That number may grow in the next few days.” Environment secretary Caroline Spelman visited Ottery St Mary, Devon, on Monday (9 July) to see the clean-up operations under way.

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