WHILE families in the flood-hit villages of Fordgate and Moorland have been putting their lives back together, work in the fields is just beginning for farmers.

James Winslade, of West Yeo Farm at Moorland, has already had help from the farming community to bring his 550 cattle back home, following an emergency evacuation in the wake of the floods.

But drilling work to plant new seed has just started across 350 acres of land, thanks to further help from other farmers.

Mr Winslade told the Mercury: “We started working the ground on Monday (April 14) and have been drilling and planting for days using three drills and four tractors.

“We’ve had support from all over the country and it’s just amazing. A Tweet by the NFU asking for help saw the largest movement of forage ever known.”

One of the farmers helping is James Drury, manager of Bicton College’s Home Farm based in Devon.

He said: “I know what I battled with this winter and the conditions we had, which was nothing compared to this - these guys have lost everything.

“We’re at the stage we should be and James is three months behind.

“It’s unimaginable, seeing straw bales on the side of the roads. I can’t imagine what it was like at the time.

“Anything we can do is just a minute gesture of good will.”

As well as local farmers, Mr Winslade has also had help from Young Farmers Clubs across the country; from Essex to Shropshire.

He added: “Farmers have also had help from people not related in farming, just people from towns and villages.

“They say they’ve seen us on the news and what we’ve gone through and seen the village, which is like a ghost town. People were very upset seeing people’s possessions just floating around.”

Mr Winslade’s family are still recovering from the shock of losing so much.

“My twin boys, who are four, feel it’s been an adventure,” he said. “But my nine-year-old had lots of tractor toys and bikes; things that he’s grown up with - and all that’s gone.

“The water came up so quick and we didn’t realise how high it would come.”

A ground specialist said the land took 10,000 tonnes of water per acre over six weeks.

Mr Winslade is thankful for help, donations and discounts he has received but still needs to buy fertilizer, an added cost on top of the estimated £200,000 he has already lost.

Of the 550 cattle Mr Winslade evacuated, three died through injuries and 100 were sold. He said 1,200 cattle were evacuated altogether including other farms, alongside 2,000 sheep when the water rose 4ft in 15 hours.

Once the land is tended to, Mr Winslade will be applying for support through the Flood Relief Fund.

He added: “All what has happened shows the value of dredging. When rivers are 42-50% silted up, the water’s got to go somewhere.

“I just hope the bosses at the Environment Agency listen now.”