2012 a farming year to forget

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2012 was a year of weather extremes and one that many farmers across Fenland would like to forget.

The year started in drought forcing Anglian Water to impose a hosepipe ban in April after the driest 18 months on record.

But it has ended with a deluge and the wettest six months for many years and the extreme weather has left many farmers counting the cost.

Some fields look more like boating lakes with water standing inches deep in many places leaving some Fenland farmers unable to lift root crops such as potatoes and sugar beet because the earth is too wet for harvesting to take place.

Stephen Hutcheson of Wisbech branch of the NFU said: “2012 is a year most farmers would like to forget. There is hardly a crop in the area that has not been affected in some way by the extreme weather we have had. We started with a very dry winter and spring and ended with a wet summer and even wetter autumn.

“There are crops of potatoes and sugar beet still in the ground in some areas, and they would normally have been lifted and stored months before now. They can still be harvested if the ground dries, but there is a worry of disease and of course frost damage. And the ground is so wet it is making it difficult for winter crops to be planted.

“I spoke to one seed salesmen who provides seed to farmers in this area and he reckons that there is a large percentage of winter wheat still to be planted. And last year’s crop’s yield was about 30 per cent down because the weather meant it didn’t get chance to flower properly.

“Apples did produce a reasonable crop but some farmers were reporting hail damage but soft fruits, especially strawberries really suffered. Farmers struggled to harvest them.

“But on a positive note, while the land is very wet and we have standing water in some places, we haven’t had to suffer flooding as they have in other parts of the country and I think we need to be grateful to the internal drainage boards who have done all they to drain water where possible,” he added.

Meanwhile as the wet weather continued at the end of last weekand into the weekend a temporary flood defence was built across the Welney Road (A1101) at the Old Bedford Bridge on Saturday (December 29).

The Environment Agency, Norfolk County Council, Cambridgeshire County Council’s and Norfolk Constabulary and Cambridgeshire Constabulary decided to take the action to contain the flood water on the Ouse Washes.

The Welney Road was last sand bagged in 2007 and the action was a planned response to water levels reaching a specific level on the Ouse Washes.

Flood water was over three meters above sea level – with 1.44 meters of water standing on the Causeway road.

Approximately 30 one ton sandbags were put across the road to build a temporary continuous defence along the barrier bank.

The Welney Causeway was closed Friday November 23 and will remain closed until flood waters have receded.