In October, due to Storm Babet, up to 80 homes in Fiskerton were at risk of flooding after damage was found along a 30m section of the River Witham.
In the face of this threat, the community came together to support each other as best they could, and countless selfless individuals worked night and day to ensure the safety of both residents and properties in the community.
Along with an emergency response team in the village hall, countless individuals volunteered their cars and vans to evacuate people and their belongings, offered paddocks for horses that needed moving, food for those struggling, empty garages for those needing storage space, a night security patrol was set up throughout the night to keep an eye on areas that had been evacuated, and residents also rallied together to help fill sandbags should the worst happen.
At the centre of this was Mel Reid, a Fiskerton resident of 13 years. Mel and her family live in one of the properties that were told to evacuate, however as their property is a house with an upstairs and everyone in the family is able-bodied, they felt they were safe and would be able to evacuate quickly if needed. This meant Mel turned her attention to how she could keep her and her neighbours’ properties safe.
“I went onto FixMyStreet and put about us being evacuated and a nice gentleman from Highways rang and said although we aren’t really supposed to do this, I understand your situation and can help with sandbags. I said it isn’t just me and that there’s many more houses… by half 8 that night I had 200 sandbags dropped on my driveway, as you do!” Mel chuckles.
They got to work placing sandbags outside of their property, as well 12 neighbouring properties. With a few sandbags spare, Mel took to Facebook to ask if anyone could use them. Within minutes they were gone, however messages continued to pour in from frightened residents desperate to protect their homes. Unable to sit back and wait, Mel decided to push on to locate even more sandbags. “I got back in touch, and he offered another 200 sandbags, so I posted on Facebook to let people know and that I’d be using my husband’s van to take them to properties… before I knew it I had about 12 people at the village hall helping, but I once again realised it wasn’t even going to scratch the surface.” After asking a final time, Mel was offered another 300 sandbags, however this was going to be the last load.
Despite his generosity, the sandbag supply was going down too quickly and there were still countless properties left unprotected. Mel decided she wouldn’t stop until every property in the high-risk area had sandbags, so she got in touch with another resident who was away on holiday. Together they managed to get around 20tn of sand in donations and found a farmer in Grantham who offered 1000 empty sacks. “I now had 20tn of sand, empty sandbags, and needed them filling” Mel explains, “so through the power of Facebook I put a message out and before I knew it, we had a team of 40 people helping fill them and 8 men with empty vans collecting them and delivering them to priority areas. In total we did about 2000 sandbags and every home that needed them got them. It was exhausting but it was amazing how much help we got from everybody.”
Mel took to Facebook to thank those who helped her efforts including:
- Ben Waller for providing 1000 sacks and ties.
- Welton Aggregate for supplying approx. 5tn sand.
- Daniel Charles Aggregate for supplying approx. 10tn sand.
- MKM North for supplying 3tn sand.
- Luke Taylor for purchasing 2tn sand.
- Ben Crabb who spent time ringing around calling in favours to get supplies whilst away on a family holiday.
- All the Fiskerton and Cherry Willingham residents who turned up to fill 1000 bags with sand, deliver the sandbags and collect supplies.
“I walk around the village now and I’m still referred to as the sandbag lady!” Mel laughs. “There are people who have lived here even longer than I have that I didn’t know, and now every morning when I take my children to school, we say hello and chat, so it’s definitely brought the community together.”
Fiskerton Parish Council Chair, Adrian Walker, commented: “Having the police knock on your door at midnight advising you to evacuate due to a potential catastrophic breach of the riverbank is extremely stressful and worrying. Around 80 homes were evacuated that day with some being put up in hotels up to 20 miles away. The resilience and sense of community shown by those who didn’t need to evacuate or chose not to was inspirational and deserves commendation.
“Facebook lit up with offers to help neighbours and to offer reassurance and support to strangers. In the same 24hrs as an army of volunteers filled sandbags by hand, a group of residents, supported by the Parish Council, set up regular security patrols around the evacuated properties, the patrols ran throughout the night and continued right up until people were allowed to return to their homes.
I’d also like to recognise those less fortunate; Langworth and Bardney both had many properties which did actually flood, and I believe Short Ferry caravan park had to evacuate all their residents and had around 20 caravans overwhelmed by flood water, so as much as it was a great effort in Fiskerton I feel it should be celebrated along with sympathy for our less fortunate neighbours. That said though, it’s unlikely the riverbank will be repaired before next summer so the threat of flooding and a re-occurrence of the evacuation will be hanging over us for some time yet.”