Monday, 17 February 2014

Farmers Team Up

Last week I was contacted by John King, a farmer from East Harptree who became involved with the evacuation of 500 cattle for James Winslade’s farm near Moorland. He had heard of the farmer’s plight through social media and decided to help. But I am not sure when he set off that day he was expecting to be so profoundly moved by what he experienced which has stimulated him to continue providing support to those whose lives have been so badly disrupted.

Initially there had been a call for Land Rovers and trailers to help move the stricken cattle but it soon became clear that the flood waters were rising so fast that even Land Rovers were not going to be up to the task and so John set off to meet at Burrowbridge with his tractor and cattle box to see if he could help.

On arrival he was directed down the already flooded road towards Moorland which was delineated by electric fence posts so he could see the edge of the road. However, these fence posts were soon submerged leaving those involved with the rescue having to guess the limits of road which on occasions was very precarious with deep rhines and the swollen waters of the River Parrett often only feet away.

The first load of cattle were removed reasonably easily to the safety of Sedgemoor Market, which has been acting as a collection centre for both evacuated livestock and fodder and bedding which has been donated by farmers from as far afield as Scotland, northern England and East Anglia. However, by the time John retuned to pick up a second load, there were calves up to their bellies in flood water and older cattle up to their hocks. It was a terrifying experience for the cattle and not much less so for the people involved.

But what it did leave John with was an immense feeling of empathy for those who had lost their homes to the flood and for the farmers whose livelihoods will be profoundly affected for months if not years to come. As a consequence John has taken on the role of co-ordinating fodder and bedding donations from farmers in the Mendip area while Alvis Brothers contractors are doing the same for farmers in North Somerset.

John also realises that it is one thing delivering feed to Sedgemoor Market but it is quite another getting the donations to the farms were the fodder and bedding is needed in sufficient quantities to make a difference. Further this support will need to continue for many weeks to come and John has therefore been delivering the donated goods on a daily basis to where it is actually required.

He emphasised to me that small donations, little and often is what will be needed in the coming weeks because there is nowhere to store hay and straw under cover in large quantities while the wrapping of many of the silage bales has been punctured during transportation and so they will not last for long.

Therefore John stressed the need to deal with donations in a practical manner so as to put them to good effect and he is very happy to be contacted by anyone interested in making a donation on 01761 221234 or 07887755949.

Similarly the Bath and West has set up a “Somerset Farmer’s Fund” for the feeding and welfare of animals and the longer term regeneration of land to grazing pasture. This fund will be co-managed with the NFU and Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution to direct help to farming businesses to assist their recovery and if anyone feels able to make a donation please visit

James Stephen MRICS FAAV
Rural Practice Chartered Surveyor, Wells

T: 01749 683381

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