HEAVY rainfall and high tides have caused severe flooding along the River Severn, with Purton hit hardest in the south of Gloucestershire.

Homes and gardens were flooded and roads submerged in the small village last week in what was described as one of the highest levels the river had risen to in decades.

Housewife Beryl Varnam told the Gazette how the water had flooded her garden and surrounded her home, which is between the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal and the River Severn.

Mrs Varnam, who has lived at the house for 26 years with her husband Ron and their 21-year-old son Sam, said it was the worst flooding she had seen in 21 years.

Environment Agency staff had visited the family on Thursday, January 2 to warn them that they were at risk of flooding when the tide came in the next morning.

“It was a bad tide. This is the first time we have had men from the Environment Agency down to give us advice,” she said.

“It helped because they had given us some warning about what was coming. We made safe our boundaries, locked the gateways and the doorways.”

Three pumps were needed to ensure that the encroaching water did not spill into the household.

When the tide receded the next day (Saturday, January 4) the road and walls of nearby homes were covered in thick mud.

Hinton Parish Council clerk Lesley Yeomans said that fields and roads in the Purton area had been submerged in water from the river.

“It was quite bad down there, some people couldn’t get out of their houses at all,” she said.

“We offered the houses sandbags but it seems they were pretty well prepared.”

The heavy rainfall over the last week is being suggested as the cause for a tree collapsing on cars in a Hillesley family’s back garden after the ground was so sodden that the roots could not hold the tree up in the wind on the afternoon of Sunday, January 4.

Retired book publisher Tom Burns said that he was shocked to come outside and see the Eucalyptus tree, measuring 50 feet in height, on top of the cars at his home on Kilcot Road.

“It was quite windy at that point. The tree took up the majority of the drive,” he said.

“We were incredibly lucky. There were four cars on that drive. If you had been walking around the garden when this thing came down there wouldn’t be much of you left. It was a miracle really.”

Mr Burns, 64, had to chop branches off of the tree to free his trapped Ford Focus, which suffered slight damage to one of its doors.