Fields littered with debris from fallen dry stone walls, sheep killed or still missing and hay bales carried away or left ruined, the true scale of devastating damage caused by this week’s flash floods to farms in the Yorkshire Dales is slowly becoming clearer.
Alan Kendall farms more than 300 acres in and around Reeth - the scene of some of the worst damage from Tuesday’s nightmare floods that inundated the agricultural heartlands of Wensleydale and Swaledale with up to 82.2mm of rain in just 24 hours.
In the worst of the torrent, the farmer was stranded in his tractor on bridge for four hours as his hay bales were washed away.
Still trying to account for all his 650 breeding ewes yesterday, the 53-year-old had to cut short a telephone conversation to rescue a sheep found stranded up a tree.
Later, he explained: “The rising water had taken it up there. The river has risen about 12ft above normal and there is flooding over the best part of a mile.
“About 150 round bales have bobbed away, never to be seen again probably. About a mile of stone walls have come down, maybe more, and the stones are scattered across the fields.”
The recovery operation is only just beginning but Grinton smallholder and Wensleydale Show chairman Kenton Foster said farmers’ quick-thinking had at least limited livestock losses.
“They couldn’t really move the silage but a lot of them have moved the sheep in a heck of a short time. There have been losses but there could have been a lot more,” said Mr Kenton, whose sister’s house in Bellerby was flooded.
Having moved his own sheep from grazing land in Reeth on Monday morning, he said he had simply got lucky.
The extreme conditions came as farmers were still recovering from poor grass yields last year when weather conditions stunted growth and led to inflated bills for buying in winter fodder supplies.
Mr Kenton said: “Everyone has been saying that this time they have had the most silage ever but it’s no good when it’s ripped and torn.”
The cost of the damage continues to be added up and the Wensleydale Show committee will be discussing the situation at a meeting on August 12.
A day of action
Young people are set to take to the streets and fields in and around Reeth on Sunday to aid the recovery efforts.
Reeth and Wensleydale Young Farmers Clubs are co-ordinating a day of action, explained the Reeth’s group secretary Georgia Hird.
“We know the farmers who have been affected the most and they have said we can help with putting up dry stone walls, cleaning up fields and we will be picking up rubbish from the streets.
“We’ll meet in the middle of the village. The Memorial Hall will be serving teas and coffees and we will be taking cakes - anything we can do to help.
“Anyone who wants to help is welcome to join us.”