Flash flooding devastates Sherborne’s Old Yarn Mill

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Businesses in Sherborne’s old Yarn Mill face uncertain future after devastating floods, but the community rallies to support recovery efforts

The devastation left behind in the LS Flooring unit – Lee Steele estimates there’s £30,000 of damage

‘I think I have lost my business. How do you recover from something like this?’
When a torrent of water swept down Sherborne’s Ottery Lane on the A352, the impromptu river devastated to businesses in the Old Yarn Mill Business Centre. Lee Steele has run LS Flooring for 25 years and it was his unit which bore the brunt of the deluge on 28th October: ‘The back doors to my business just couldn’t hold up against the water that poured through the building. To start, I was ankle deep … before I knew it the doors blew off and I was up to my hips in floodwater.
‘All the carpet samples and equipment have been ruined and had to go to the tip. I’ve lost around £30,000 of stock. Because there has been a flood before, the insurance won’t pay out. We’ve had floods three times in the last 18 months – before that just once in the previous 25 years. To be honest, I don’t think it’s sunk in yet.’
Hannah Wilkins from Vineyards was also affected by the flooding.
‘We have never had flooding like this before. Although our back doors are three feet above the ground, passing cars caused bow waves, making the water higher and it just kept washing in. With all the roads above us and the concrete, this run off had nowhere to go.
‘The last time the drains had been cleared by the council was 12 months ago, so there was a lot of build up of silt and leaves.
‘Lee’s business became a river and water flowed from his into everyone else’s. The drains in the car park were unable to cope with the water. We were all firefighting at the exits and also the front of the premises. Although our wines were stored off the floor, our store-room was affected. And down there, the water made all the cardboard boxes crumble so it was unsafe. We had to get loads of pallets and make plinths to store everything.
‘But now, when it comes to insurance, we’re classed as a flood plain and everyone’s premiums will go up. The landlord is having to install flood defences. All this water has come from somewhere. When you put more concrete around, the water has nowhere else to drain. We know the builders made a reservoir at the top of the road, but we’ve been and looked at it – and it is empty.’

Vineyards had to work fast to raise their stock above the flood

Community action
One of the positive things to come from all the devastation was the community response. Hannah was amazed at how people turned out to help.
‘We put an appeal on social media for help with the clean-up and around 30 people turned up! They cleaned the place, took stuff to the tip and helped build plinths. And people brought coffee and cakes and bacon sarnies. It was one of the positives to come from this. ’There are lots of businesses here that were affected, including Molecula, Mary Hossack Antiques and Parachute Bar.’
Sherborne town councillors turned up on Sunday morning.Town Clerk Steve Shield told the BV: ‘We became aware of the problem last Saturday and visited to assess the damage on Sunday. The town council assisted with the clear-up process and was able to negotiate with Dorset Council about removing the waste to the recycling centre. Six full loads, weighing two tons, were removed from the site.
‘On Monday we spoke to Dorset Council, and the highways team has been doing some clearance. The sheer amount of water was incredible – we had properties affected all over the town, including on Cheap Street, parts of Horsecastles and the top of the town.
’The public can help. If they see a blocked drain, report it to Dorset Council highways department, so that it receives attention. If we don’t know there’s a problem, it can’t be fixed.’

The pressure of the floodwater forced LS Flooring’s back door off its hinges and an impromptu river filled the unit – the water level can be seen inside the glass as it begins to pour out the front of the building

Owners of businesses in Old Yarn Mill continue to clear up and assess the damage. They are also looking ahead with trepidation at a season of winter storms.
‘We are very worried about Storm Ciaran this week,’ says Hannah. ‘The Chamber of Commerce and Town Council have been to see us and Highways have now been clearing the drains. However, when this has all settled, we need to sit down with all of these people and sort out what can be done to support us – particularly if this area is going to be regualrly flooded.
‘And the public can really help by supporting the local businesses at Yarn Mill. Come and buy a beer from Parachute (or wine from us). Keep Molecula and Mary Hossack in mind for antique shopping – maybe for Christmas gifts. If you need signwriting, check out South West Signs.
‘We also have an open weekend from 16th to 18th November, so do please come and support us all. We have been blow away by the community spirit we have encountered and we want turn this disaster into a positive.’

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