Fishlake flood: Villagers prepare for a different Christmas

By Adam Smith
BBC News

  • Published
A static caravan being delivered
Image caption,
Some Fishlake residents believe they will be living in static caravans for anywhere up to a year

Fishlake was evacuated in early November after the nearby River Don burst its banks, flooding the village in South Yorkshire. Six weeks on, how are things looking for the people who had to leave their homes?

So much for a silent night.

Six weeks on from devastating flooding and houses in Fishlake still hum and drone with heaters, dehumidifiers and fans.

Many villagers will spend Christmas away from home, their houses uninhabitable after last month's floods

Others will mark the holiday in mobile homes, static caravans and campervans provided by insurance companies.

Image source, PA Media/Richard McCarthy
Image caption,
The village of Fishlake near Doncaster was cut off by flooding, with hundreds of people being forced to leave their properties

Dan Greenslade and his partner Jade Croft had been planning to spend Christmas in their new home with baby daughter Indie.

But just hours after she was born, they were told their house was "under water".

They had only been in the house for three weeks before the floods and they are now in rental accommodation while repair work is carried out.

Image source, Dan Greenslade
Image caption,
Dan Greenslade, his partner Jade Croft and their daughter Indie are in rented accommodation after the floods

Mr Greenslade said: "We were looking forward to hosting Christmas and having our families round with the new baby.

"Obviously we can't do that so we're going to be at my girlfriend's parents instead, but we'll do it next year instead."

Image caption,
South Yorkshire Police has maintained a presence in the village following the floods

The streets are quiet save for the police on horseback - part of "reassurance patrols" announced after the floods.

Delivery drivers and couriers leave parcels with those residents who either remained in the village or have been able to return.

Image caption,
A number of Christmas events have been planned for Fishlake including a special concert on 20 December

There are still skips at the roadside, loaded with damaged carpets and furniture, as tradesman and contractors pull up flooring and rewire electrics in abandoned homes.

Neil West can only use one room in the downstairs of his house after floodwater ruined the wooden flooring he had throughout much of his home.

But this has not stopped him getting a Christmas tree up.

Image caption,
Mr West said his house was hit by five inches of water at 05:00 in the morning

However, despite his best efforts to make things "homely," Mr West said he would be taking his wife and children to visit relatives on Christmas Day.

"Christmas is normally spent at home, it's the first time we will be going elsewhere.

"It won't be traditional like for the past 23 years, but we'll make of it what we can."

Image caption,
The bridges back into Fishlake have reopened allowing villagers to come and go as they please
Image caption,
Residents affected by the flooding have received messages of goodwill ahead of Christmas

Many of those who have stayed in the village are living in static caravans, delivered on flatbed lorries with large cranes used to drop them into place on driveways and in gardens.

Inside, villagers have put up Christmas trees, alongside displays of cards from friends and family, bringing a holiday feel to their temporary lodgings.

Image caption,
Some villagers face a race to get their static caravans ready for Christmas Day
Image caption,
Thomas Lee plans to have Christmas Day in his static caravan, complete with presents under the tree and a turkey with all the trimmings

Father-of-three Thomas Lee has been living in a touring caravan on land behind his home but he now has a static caravan, which his family describe as "like being at Butlins".

He plans to have Christmas Day in the static home and has hung fairy lights around the eaves while his wife has put up a Christmas tree.

Mr Lee said: "It's hard for the children because they're used to being in a house but we're going to make it the best we can.

"It'll be just like being at home for them."

Image caption,
The water level might have dropped but residents are still living with the aftermath of the floods

This determination to embrace the festive spirit can be seen throughout the village.

Christmas lights have gone up, wreath-making workshops have been held and although the village pantomime may have been postponed, new dates have been promised for the new year.

Image caption,
Pam Webb's team of beauty therapists are helping get her spa business back up and running

But for Pam Webb Christmas is far from her thoughts as she plans to work throughout the festive period to get her spa business back open on 6 January.

"Christmas decorations are not on my agenda at the moment, as far as I'm concerned Christmas will be in July next year.

"It's going to be busy to say the least, I won't be bored let's put it that way."

Ms Webb had to cancel bookings over the festive period, but since advertising that the spa was reopening, she has seen an increase in sales of gift vouchers bought as Christmas presents.

Image caption,
Ms Webb has got her swimming pool back open and bought a new hot tub after the old one was destroyed by flood water

In the days and weeks after the flood waters came and went, St Cuthberts church has been inundated with donations and this Christmas has been no exception with well-wishers from across the country sending gifts for the children of Fishlake.

Along with the presents - many wrapped and labelled according to age - the church has also received children's colouring books sent from Truro in Cornwall and scores of chocolate selection boxes from the mining community in south Wales.

Image caption,
Food donated to St Cuthberts will be given to food banks after Boxing Day for use in the new year

Church warden Peter Pridham said: "The level of donations have been simply outstanding, it's quite a challenge to make sure everyone gets something - now I know why Santa is so special.

"The fact that people have actually worked together and teamed up and helped each other has been a wonderful demonstration of the Christmas spirit."

Image caption,
Villagers are calling for more to be done to protect them if the River Don rises again

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