'My mum-in-law might get back into her flooded home next Christmas - if she's lucky'

There’s little sign of Christmas in one of Yorkshire’s worst flood hit villages. In Fishlake many homes stand empty and there is barely a wreath to be seen.

Mark Wilson outside his mother in law's house in Fishlake Picture: Simon Hulme

Outside one wrecked house, a woman sits in a car, dabbing her eyes.

On streets which were underwater seven weeks ago, there are scores of skips, men in high visibility jackets and white vans galore, everything from specialists in insurance to drying out water- damaged buildings.

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Mark Wilson stands outside mother-in-law Eileen Purcell’s house, beside binbags full of ruined possessions, waiting for their skip to arrive.

John Duckitt in his home on Trundle Lane, Fishlake. Picture: Simon Hulme

He said: “It’s just somebody’s life virtually wiped out in five minutes. Downstairs there’s literally nothing left.”

Normally Christmas is celebrated in the house where Mrs Purcell has lived for more than 40 years - but not this year.

He said: “We are now looking at the first couple of weeks in January for the builders to rip the plaster off, take the floorboards out. The staircase is coming out, the kitchen is coming out.

“She might be back in for next Christmas if she’s lucky, which for an 85-year-old is not ideal.”

Mr Duckitt outside his home, 10 days after the flooding in November Picture: Simon Hulme

Further down the road, 79-year-old John Duckitt admits it has been tough going since the terrifying night when the floodwater swept through his house and yard, after finding its way through the lowest point of the bank.

The retired peatworker and his family, including his daughter and three grandchildren under the age of five, were about to move into two large static caravans, which will be their homes for months to come, when The Yorkshire Post visited.

“It started trickling as if there was a big hose on. Within 20 minutes it was up to your knees, flowing through here like a river,” he recalls.

His home of 55 years is a sad sight - the bathroom still covered in mucky brown silt. In one dank room a gaping hole in the floor reveals a pool of water underneath.

Pam Webb the owner of Truffle Lodge Luxury Spa, Fishlake Picture: Simon Hulme

Round the back of the houses is a portable blue flood barrier put up by the Environment Agency. “I told them (the EA) in 2007 that the banks had been taken down - they didn’t take any notice,” he says.

At Truffle Lodge owner Pam Webb is running on adrenaline as she gets the luxury spa shipshape for reopening on January 6.

Ms Webb said many homes had had their first or second visit from insurers but “that’s where it’s stopped.”

She said: “We need more regulation around insurance companies. There’s been a lot who have been incredibly slow. The delay in assessing properties has meant more damage - ceilings coming down because the drying out process isn’t taking place.”

Meanwhile a band of volunteers in the church has done their best to keep the Christmas spirit alive.

Services have continued as normal at St Cuthbert’s, whose ancient nave has acted as a store for essentials, like children’s clothes, nappies, dogfood and what looks like hundreds of bottles of bleach.

Donations have poured in from all over including boxes of chocolates from the Rhondda Valley and gifts for the children from Tinsley Churches near Sheffield.

“It has been an amazing outpouring and very humbling.” said churchwarden Wendy Brownbridge.

“People are out of their houses, they are still being emptied, they come here for some food, a cup of tea, to chat and have some respite.”

Although exhausted she said the team was “happy we have been able to fulfil a need”.

She said: “The church has been a place of refuge since it was built; it is good that we have been able to continue the ethos of Chrstianity, of helping your neighbour.

"But it has been very sad to see how distraught people have been, and apart from a hug and a cup of tea you can’t do anything for them.”