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Storm-hit Ed fears for food supply after floods ruin fields.

Byline: Sally Williams Farming Editor

THE Welsh coastal town of Barmouth in North Wales was badly hit with waves crashing over sea defences in early January. Strong tidal surges threw rocks onto the road and damaged vehicles, with 60 people given refuge in a Red Cross centre set up after a severe flood warning was issued.

Parts of the Cambrian Coast railway were closed due to devastating damage caused by the tidal storms. The sea wall was washed away by tidal flooding at Llanaber, with 300 tonnes of ballast lost to the sea.

Former NFU Cymru president Ed Bailey, 59, is a sheep and cattle farmer in Llanbedr, Gwynedd, eight miles north of Barmouth.

Ed is a father of two and grandfather of three. He lost his wife Helen a few years ago.

He is a lifelong farmer of more than 40 years. The 2,800 acres he farms overlook the Irish Sea and the edge of his farm lies a quarter of a mile from the coast. The land ranges from sand dunes to rocky outcrops and from below sea level in places to more than 2,500ft on the mountain top. Parts of this land are among the oldest to have been farmed in Britain, dating back more than 4,000 years.

In the early hours of a morning in January this year, Ed managed to rescue 100 of his sheep who were in a low-lying area a quarter of a mile inland. He did this with just 10 minutes to spare before the sea defences were destroyed and 100 acres of his land were flooded by up to four feet of water.

The sea water flooded over half a mile of his land, reaching the bottom of the path to his home. Two months on and his fields are still waterlogged and his sheep are unable to graze on the land in time for the lambing season.

He said: "When I looked at the sea wall and saw the water coming over the top of it, I thought I better move my sheep off pretty quickly. I'm very glad I did because by the time we got them off, within 10 minutes there was probably four or five feet of sea water covering these fields. It came as an awful shock.

"You can see the amount of surface water there is here, there's absolutely no point putting sheep down here, they wouldn't be able to live on this type of land naturally. It's infi-nitely better than it was two months ago when the water was up to my chest here and this was all covered in sea water. This water is still salty water and you can see underneath the grass there's nothing growing whatsoever, which is making a complete mess of the field.

"I was more fortunate than my neighbours, as they lost over a hundred sheep and they lost them in minutes. The sheep drowned.

"They tried their best to save them but in doing so they put their own lives at risk. Two young farmers were one minute running around at bootlevel, the next minute it was up to their chests. Those aren't just ewes for one year, he would have had a hundred lambs off them this year and a hundred lambs off them or probably more for the next four or five years.

"Over the last few years we've experienced extreme weather on a number of occasions. We've had hosepipe bans, the wettest summers, the wettest winters and the coldest springs. My concern is initially the income for farmers but also the fact that it's inevitably going to curtail the ability of farmers to grow food.

"We've seen, certainly in this last 24 months, big impacts on farmers' incomes - in some cases down 60%. That isn't something that is sustainable in the long term. Unless we have a different system or we can get some control over the weather, it is going to have a continued impact and will put a lot of farm businesses certainly in doubt.

"My land has been under salt water for two months and I fear it will be barren and nothing at all will grow."


Ed Bailey, whose farm has been badly affected by sea water flooding
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Mar 25, 2014
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