Floods cause havoc for parks staff

Staff across the country struggle to cope with waterlogging after flooding hits parks and pitches.

Parks and pitch staff across Britain's worst flood-hit areas are desperately trying to cope with waterlogged green spaces but without money many areas will stay bad.

A month's rain fell in a couple of days in areas such as the West Country, north Wales and the North East as forecasters issued nearly 300 flood warnings across England and Wales last week.

Deluges in Monmouthshire caused massive damage to green spaces, with only the goal posts and perimeter fencing around football pitches at Caldicot Castle Country Park visible above the 3ft-deep flood line.

The county's operations manager for parks and landscape Nigel Leaworthy said: "Parks are under water, we are losing trees through landslips and grave digging is awful because we have to pump water as we dig.

"Problems will get worse as the weather dries out and people walk over turf. Grass cutting this year has been a nightmare. We can't collect leaves now - upkeep of beds has gone out the window. It's never been so bad. Budgets are being cut so if we can't find money for repairs, areas will stay bad."

Vivary Park in Taunton Deane is submerged, with the bandstand and fountain in up to 2ft of water. The park will be closed for more than a week. The shutdown comes just six months after the council was forced to close the park when it was left under several feet of water in late April. The closures were unprecedented and the latest flooding is worse than in spring, said a spokeswoman.

"Neighbouring Taunton Deane Cricket Club is also under water and staff will monitor water levels in the park and reopen it as soon as it is possible," said the authority, which has deployed 10,000 sandbags to protect landmarks and homes.

A Cornwall County Council spokeswoman said parks and green spaces had been affected but the authority is focusing on housing, strategic roads and bridges right now and it is too early for a detailed assessment of the state of the parks.

Elsewhere, sports pitches and golf courses are under water. Race meetings in Sedgefield, County Durham and at Southwell Racecourse in Nottinghamshire have been abandoned because of waterlogged tracks.

Wetherby Racecourse in Yorkshire looked like a floodplain under 2ft of water and has not suffered so much in 30 years, said head groundsman Ian Ward. "It is so deep in parts we can't even wade through it and there's nothing we can do," he added.

"We can't pump the water anywhere because the River Ouse is flooded. The turf is pretty hardy but if the surface stays waterlogged for another week or 10 days it will turn yellow. It's in the lap of the gods - there's nowt you can do about rain."

Industry View - Sid Sullivan, parks consultant

"Next spring will see the beginning of slow dieback and death caused by the floods. Top priority must be to survey trees. Replacement of trees and shrubs will run into thousands so think about a campaign of sponsorship for planting in spring. Also check security of play equipment and the condition of sports turf. The Government, through its lottery income, should make a contribution to help the amenity sector recover from one of the worst disasters it has faced in recent times."

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