FLOODING: Ruined crops set to cost famers dear

Oxford Mail: John Hook, NFU president Peter Kendall and Tim Hook at Cote Lodge Farm John Hook, NFU president Peter Kendall and Tim Hook at Cote Lodge Farm

FARMERS in West Oxfordshire say they have seen about 1,000 acres of land disappear under water in the floods.

Low-lying land in rural areas west of Witney, including Aston, Cote and Chimney, has been rendered unusable.

Tim Hook, 32, says he has lost 300 acres to flooding at Cote Lodge Farm, which has possibly ruined his wheat crops for the rest of the year.

He said: “We expect the water to stay for two weeks, but it has been on our land for six weeks.

“It’ll have ruined my grass and my wheat crops. I’m not sure what I’m going to plant that can feed my cattle through the winter.

“Once it’s all gone, I could plant a spring crop, but then what if it floods again?

“I’m losing £70 an acre just for the cost of seed and spray, never mind the money I’m losing from sales.”

Mr Hook and his father John were visited on Monday by Peter Kendall, the president of the National Farmers' Union and members of the union's Witney & Chipping Norton branch were due to meet Environment Agency officials to discuss the situation last night.

Witney residents have not escaped the rising water levels, with the Windrush having risen in recent days, before dropping away.

Collette Lally, who works at the Finders Keepers estate agent on Bridge Street, said: “We watch it all the time. It’s quite scary.

“If the water gets much higher it will be going into our car park and causing real problems for us.

“We’ve moved all of the computers up off the floor, but apart from that there’s not much we can do.”

Amanda Bevan-Talbot, who lives in nearby Crawley, said: “It’s not as bad as it was in 2007, but I am worried we’ll see those levels again.”

Ms Bevan-Talbot’s home is on the flooded Dry Lane, which is causing problems for through-traffic and residents.

She said: “It’s hard enough going to work and not knowing if you’ll be able to get back home.

“My wife can work from home, but I need to be able to go out for my job as a window cleaner.”

In Abingdon, residents whose homes were damaged by flooding seven years ago fear being hit by the floods again.

River levels were within 2cm of reaching the highest ever recorded on the Thames at Abingdon Lock – at 52cm – on Monday.

They dropped to 49cm yesterday and residents reported floodwater receding away from their front doors, but more heavy rain is forecast for Abingdon today.

Claire Snowdon’s flat in St Helen’s Mill, off St Helen’s Wharf, was flooded by the River Ock in 2007 by half a metre of water.

The flat was uninhabitable for almost a year while it was dried out and furniture was replaced.

Residents banded together to install a £50,000 flood prevention system in the building which was pumping water out from underneath the surrounded flats yesterday.

Ms Snowdon said: “People who have never been flooded don’t understand how long it takes to dry it all out. You do get worried. Even though we have had all that flood prevention work done, it has never been fully tested.”

Ms Snowdon said residents are in talks with the Environment Agency about building a protective wall which was promised after the 2007 floods.

They are meeting for more discussions about the plan on February 19.

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