Neen Sollars flooding 'splits village in half'

Graham Wilkinson
Image caption Graham Wilkinson said river water waist-high came up to his driveway

"It's really cut us in two, there's only one route out of here by road and it's a seven-mile detour to get round the village."

Graham Wilkinson, chairman of Neen Sollars and Milson Parish Council, says the restricted access within and around Neen Sollars, nestled on the Worcestershire Shropshire border, had forced residents to adapt.

Earlier this month, flood water from the River Rea rose so high that both sides of the grade II listed bridge collapsed.

The bridge, connecting two halves of the village with a population of 70, could be closed to traffic until October, Shropshire Council says.

Mr Wilkinson, who has lived there for 20 years, had water creeping into his driveway but said the greatest impact had been on one of the farmers.

"Pedestrian access is better than nothing but he farms on both sides of the bridge and at the moment can't get his tractor over it.

"He's having to rely on a quad bike to get most of the work done," he said.

'Bound to happen'

People living in two houses that sit either side of the bridge were the residents worst affected, with one couple having to move out for 12 months.

Another couple, Elsie and Bernard Owen, said it was the first time their home, the old village schoolhouse where they have lived for 52 years, had flooded.

Image caption Elsie and Bernard Owen have been staying in a friend's holiday cottage while work is carried out

Mrs Owen, 87, said: "It was quite a shock because it was so late and our dog woke us up barking before we realised the river was coming right up.

"I put my legs out of bed and there was water up to my shins.

"It was too deep to get out the back way but we were rescued by the firemen with rafts - it was a little scary but had its funny aspects too I suppose."

The couple are staying in a friend's holiday cottage further up the village.

Mr Owen, 86, said the cost of the damage to the ground floor was still unclear but they had been told repair work could take three months.

Mr Wilkinson said the extent of the flooding and collapse of the bridge was almost inevitable.

"Prior to it being damaged I'd been in phone and email contact with various people, including the Environment Agency, due to my concern about the amount of debris coming down the river.

"We had to have it cleared twice in the six weeks leading up to that day [14 July] that the floods hit."

The Environment Agency said river levels of the Rae had risen higher than in 2007 when as much as three times the average rainfall fell in most of the south Midlands.

A spokesperson said the agency had been aware of debris blocking the bridge and cleared two blockages from the area in June.

They added that the responsibility of the bridge lies with the owner, the council.

'Business as usual'

Mr Wilkinson said it was uncertain how the flooding would affect the community's planned hydro-electric scheme at the Tetsill Mill site, which was also badly hit.

Christine Ferguson, landlady of the village pub the Live and Let Live Inn, said: "We've been here 31 years so people know us and we're very lucky because everyone's very supportive of each other.

"We've been OK in the last two weeks and people are really making the effort.

Image caption Owners of the village pub hope the support of residents will continue

"But you wonder how long that's going to go on for - it's a funny time of year anyway what with people taking holidays and I think the weather will play a card too."

Mrs Ferguson said customers came from as far as Kidderminster in Worcestershire and the pub has a cricket team and dominoes league.

"On home matches our cricketers play at Tetsill [the other side of the bridge] but the ground's been flooded anyway so that may have an impact on business in August.

"They would naturally start and finish at the pub after driving down to the ground so in those terms the bridge could really have an effect.

"It would have been disastrous if it hadn't been for the 'business as usual' signs but the longer it goes on it's not ideal."

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