Last Thursday will be a day I will remember but hopefully all involved will never have to witness again.
The day was spent on the Somerset Levels evacuating the Winslade family farm and then their neighbours on the following day. Devastating and horrific would be how I would describe their situation, bringing many to tears.
The water was waist deep in the farm entrance and driving along single lane roads so deep in water you cannot see the hedges or ditches either side was extremely dangerous. In convoys of up to 10 cattle trailers, we took every animal to the local auction centre where they were either sold the following weekend or distributed to local farmers. That night the River Parrett could not cope again and the water level rose another metre, meaning sheds where we loaded cattle were now in 0.9 metres (3ft) of water. We got the animals out just in time.
This meant the neighbouring farms which were thought to be safe now had to be evacuated on the Friday. It was a sombre mood when we left the Winslade’s farm on the Friday night for the last time. The water was now knee deep in the houses on the farm and deeper in some of the sheds, this would be the last time a tractor would be able to get in – it was just too deep and dangerous.
What was humbling was the coming together of famers to help, either in getting the cattle out or donating food. It was a real show of strength with not one Environment Agency (EA), army or police member helping. We just got on with it as they were busy ‘saving’ houses in Moorland.
So what now? The policies of, and the EA itself, are not fit for purpose. The ideological naturalists and environmentalists have had too much influence. Even the chairman has not got the qualifications for the job.
They need to listen to the local farmers and residents like the Winslades who have lived in these areas for generations. They should decide the policies not Westminster. As for the rest of us, straw and forage donations should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rodney Down farms with his wife Claire at Higher Wrantage Farm, Taunton, Somerset, with 125ha (307 acres) on a farm business tenancy and a further 323ha (800 acres) rented and contract farmed. He milks 300 Holstein Friesians and runs 350 beef cattle and followers. The farm includes 180ha (445 acres) feed wheat and 61ha (150 acres) of maize.