Flood horror nearly swept Doncaster woman away as water reached her roof

Dawn Henderson was terrified and feared for her life.

By David Kessen
Wednesday, 8th January 2020, 10:00 am

It was November 7, and floodwaters had poured into the house where she and husband Phil live and operate their fishing lake and touring caravan site business in Doncaster.

The rising waters had already surrounded their home and were getting higher. The water was up to her chest and all the couple’s vehicles were wrecked by the water.

Phil had called a neighbouring farmer for help, and as Dawn waded through the deep floodwaters she feared the flow of the water along Ferryboat Lane, Denaby Main, would sweep her away. A friend threw her a rope, and she was hauled in to the tractor from which the farmer had been unable to reach her – before the couple were driven away to safety.

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Ferryboat Farm Fisheries pictured before the flood. Picture: NDFP-04-01-20 Ferryboat Fisheries 10-NMSY

“I thought I was going to be swept away,” said Dawn. “I really feared for my life.”

The couple may no longer feel like their are battling for their lives – but they now feel like they are battling for their livelihoods.

Floods which devastated parts of Doncaster in November wreaked havoc on the site of their family business, Ferryboat Farm Fisheries, in Old Denaby.

The waters which they remember surging into their site from the Don have caused tens of thousands of pounds worth of damage.

Phil and Dawn Henderson, pictured at Ferryboat Farm Fisheries. Picture: NDFP-04-01-20 Ferryboat Fisheries 1-NMSY

When the flooding was at its worst, the waters were above the windows and lapping up against the fifth row of tiles on the roof of their home. The water picked up a number of caravans and metal storage units, moving them around 100 yards. Machinery and tools have been wrecked, as have cars and vans and power generators and the landscaping, including bunds which were designed to keep water away, which were washed away by the power of the water.

They lost bookings over Christmas and New Year that had already been made.

As well as their business assets, they lost priceless personal items, including their wedding pictures.

As you make your way to the site, the devastation that was caused is apparent. At the roadside, a caravan still hangs out of a hedge, the site where the waters dumped it when they finally retreated.

The Clubhouse has been devastated by the flood. Picture: NDFP-04-01-20 Ferryboat Fisheries 4-NMSY

On the site itself, most items have been returned to their original location. A steel cement mixer, however, still hangs from a fence when it was picked up and left by the water.

They may have been hit hard by the floods – but Phil and Dawn are determined to fight back; to get back into their home and to bring their business back into operation.

They have already done just that once. They were also affected by the floods of 2007, which happened just three years after they first opened. After that disaster, their insurance firm paid some of the costs, although they also sold off their home to move into the bungalow on the site. At the time they were told the flooding was a once in 100 years disaster.

This time they don’t have that asset to sell. They also no longer had insurance.

Phil Henderson, pictured at Ferryboat Farm Fisheries. Picture: NDFP-04-01-20 Ferryboat Fisheries 5-NMSY

But they have started the fight back.

Phil said: “We are prioritising what we need to do. At the moment we are living with friends. The first thing that we need to do is get the business up and running so that we can have an income again.

“We are hoping to have everything up and running again by Easter in terms of the business.

"The first thing we want to sort is the fishing lake.

“We have the Environment Agency coming to do a fish survey in our lake, which will tell us if there are any fish left in the lake. If they have gone, then it will cost £15,000 to £20,000 to re-stock.

“After that has been done, there is work to be done sorting the field so that it can be used again by caravans. We need to put in new electrical hook-ups for the vehicles, and get it checked up to the standards required by the Camping and Caravan Club. You can’t cut corners.”

The home and business of Phil and Dawn Henderson at Ferryboat Farm Fisheries has been devastated by the recent floods. The front room of their home, pictured. Picture: NDFP-04-01-20 Ferryboat Fisheries 8-NMSY

On top of those tasks, they have to mend the amenity block, and fix the club house, a facility which is used for community functions.

Phil says it is a big job, but has been humbled by the help he has received from the community.

Anglers who use the lake have visited the site to help clear up rubbish, as has a group of disabled anglers who use the venue. Angling groups have also made cash donations, which Phil said will go towards re-stocking the lake.

Businesses have also helped. A plasterer has agreed to do work for them for free. A business lent them a digger for free to repair bunds, with a friend operating it for them, also free of charge.

They have received a £2,500 cash aid grant from Doncaster Council, and staff from the authority also helped on the site in the immediate clear-up. “They asked if there was anything we needed at one point,” said Phil. “Within 30 minutes they had dropped us off a digger and two dehumidifiers.”

The couple opened up the business as what they described as their pension in 2004. Phil was a former driver with the family haulage business, a job he mixed with a career in motorcycle racing, whcih saw him crowned the British 500cc chamption in 1980. He also worked at power stations. Dawn had previously worked in education.

“I’ve been fishing since I was eight, and we’ve had great times here,” said Phil. “That is what motivates us to get it back up and running.

“We could fill a page with all the people who have helped us – it is quite humbling.

“I think this will cost us £50,000. Without the amazing support we have had, it could have been twice that.”