Starcross SOS church bells to warn of flood

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StarcrossImage source, ianwool/Getty
Image caption,
Starcross, which is on the west side of the Exe Estuary, has a long history of flooding

Villagers in Devon are set to benefit from having the UK's first church bell flood warning system.

The 18th Century bells at St Paul's Church in Starcross could now ring out an SOS peal in the event of a flood.

They will only be used if the Environment Agency's electronic warning and other forms of communication have failed.

Starcross has a long history of tidal flooding, dating back hundreds of years, according to the agency.

It gave a grant of £10,000 to have the bells restored, with funds to carry out the work topped up by the community.

Image source, Google
Image caption,
The bells at St Paul's Church in Starcross have been restored

Churchwarden Tim Miles said: "We are very excited to welcome the bells back to the church and will sleep soundly knowing they are ready if needed to warn villagers of flooding."

Church bells have a long tradition of being used to warn of hazards and were set to be used in the event of a German invasion during World War Two.

Image source, Moorefam/Getty
Image caption,
Starcross is on the same railway line as nearby Dawlish which is regularly affected by flooding

Jane Fletcher-Peters, flood resilience officer at the agency, said: "Starcross is very much a boating community so it made sense that if the church bells were sounded to warn of flood, ringers would adopt an SOS peal familiar to residents."

The agency also started work in January 2018 on a £4 million tidal defence scheme to better protect 660 homes and businesses at Starcross and nearby Cockwood from coastal flooding.

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