Open: Business as usual

Floods, fire and fear of another disease outbreak. It all sounds like a recipe for a Hollywood disaster movie. In fact it’s just some of the challenges faced here this month.

Driving in pouring rain through a foot of water with my excited youngsters squealing for me to make more of a splash was just the start of it. An hour later and the roads turned to rivers, Fairford was almost cut off and I received the first calls for help from neighbours, friends and family.

Standing in the road/river directing traffic with phone in one hand, I offered accommodation to drivers who were struggling to get home, but most pushed on regardless.

Within the next 24 hours, Tom had filled sandbags, helped lift furniture, rescued abandoned drivers in the tractor and moved cattle to higher ground.

With about 100 homes flooded, devastation in the town was obvious, but it was a novelty to be wading to the shops and seeing a dinghy in the high street. We were lucky, the farmhouse kept dry and the crops, not pretty, but still standing and now being combined.

We have had a few cancellations with the B&B, with visitors perceiving the area to be ruined by floods, but this was a common problem shared with my colleagues in the Farm Stay Holiday Group.

While some farms had such devastating flood damage that their businesses will sadly not resume for some time, the main message for visitors is that Gloucestershire and the Cotswolds are open for business as usual.

At a meeting here one night last week we discussed strategies for promotion, in the light of the latest foot-and-mouth outbreaks, which could further reduce our occupancy rates. As I write, we remain optimistic that this time the disease has been contained. If necessary we will rise to the challenge with a more innovative marketing campaign, but will definitely not be making a WI-style tastefully nude calendar!

A week after the local firemen had finally rolled up their hoses, having pumped out flooded homes, they were called back to the farm where we had another kind of emergency – a fire. A large articulated lorry arrived to bring a load of fertiliser. While tipping in the field, he hit the power cables, cutting electricity to 1000 homes.

Two fire engines arrived and heroically put out the blaze. Tom used a tractor to pull the lorry off the cables so that Ramboesque men from the electricity board could shinny up poles to reinstate electricity before midnight.

Events here have been very dramatic. There were times when you could have imagined Bruce Willis emerging from the haze with a wry smile declaring that the disaster was now under control. Mmm, nice thought, I wonder if he would be interested in featuring on a calendar?

Suzie Paton’s farm B&B columns

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