Farmers count the cost of Storm Babet

Farmers across much of the country have been counting the cost of Storm Babet, with images of damaged infrastructure and unharvested maize and vegetable crops submerged in flood water suggesting it will be significant.

Unprecedented levels of rainfall led to rivers overtopping and flood defences being breached, leaving tens of thousands of acres of farmland under water, sometimes washing away valuable soils and newly sown crops with it.

See also: Storm Babet wreaks flooding havoc on Scottish farms

For some rural regions it was the worst flood in living memory.

At the Rottal Estate, a mixed upland estate in the Angus Glens of Scotland, the force from around 250mm of rainfall in 48 hours realigned the Rottal Burn, creating a second channel and driving river water down the highway.

Estate owner Dee Ward said the bank had moved by around 100m and that he was working with the authorities to reinstate it.

Farm buildings, residential properties and polytunnels growing vegetables were spared, thanks to flood defence improvements Mr Ward had invested in last year.

But there is a big clean-up operation ahead.

Eight fords on the estate have been swept away and the two water lagoons in its hydro scheme have filled with stone and debris, preventing the system from operating.

A river bridge that had stood for 160 years was also destroyed by the water.

Brown water

In the East Midlands, farmer and agricultural consultant Sarah Bell posted a video on social media of brown water flowing down the country lanes around her farm.

“Absolutely immense amounts of water flowing at speed, through the farm and taking anything in its wake, including precious top soil,” she wrote on the social media platform X.

“There is no amount of resilience I can build in to soils that will compensate for rain like this, I could cry.”

Red warnings

Scotland had two red warnings on consecutive days, with crops and farmland all badly affected.

NFU Scotland vice-president Andrew Connon said the floods would cause real hardship.

“You put a lifetime’s work looking after the land, and protecting the land is one thing,” he said.

“But for farmers to walk into the potato stores and there’s 4ft of water, that has a massive impact.”

In Montgomeryshire, ruminant nutritionist Hefin Richards also posted images of fields of maize submerged in floodwater.

Sheepdog to the rescue

Among the heartache there were some heart-warming moments.

Llŷr Jones’ sheepdog swam across a flooded field to herd to safety three ewes stranded by flood water.

Mr Jones farms on high ground in Ruthin, but also rents land in Flintshire where he grazes ewes.

He navigated road closures to drive to that land to check on the flock and found a large part of a field underwater, with three ewes cut off from the rest by the flood water.

Eight-year-old sheepdog Patsy went to the rescue.

“She half swam and half jumped through the water and was able to get the ewes back with the others,” said Mr Jones, whose video was widely shared on social media.

There were few positives to take from the storm, but he drew one. “We have a hydro scheme and it has been going flat out,” he said.

Rural insurer NFU Mutual said it was too early to estimate the financial impact of the storm, but had put its customer call handlers, loss adjusters and repair network on high alert to help customers affected.

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