One year after the floods: Doncaster couple still not home as Fishlake residents return to their properties

A year ago this week, hundreds of Doncaster homes were devastated by floods.

By David Kessen
Friday, 6th November 2020, 7:00 am

Late on the night of November 8, after record rainfall, the banks of the River Don overflowed – leaving households in areas including Fishlake, Bentley, Conisbrough and Tickhill under water

Twelve months may have passed – but some residents are still not yet back in the homes they fled last night.

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Paul and Debbie Kelk, pictured outside their home on Fishlake. Picture: NDFP-13-10-20 Fishlake Kelk 2-NMSY

Among those who are still living away from home are Fishlake couple Paul and Debbie Kelk.

Debbie remembers clearly the events of November 8 last year.

She said: “It was about 8pm, and a neighbour came banging on the door, saying the road was flooding. Outside, it just looked like water was marching down the road. Soon it was coming in through the floor.

"We’d not had any official notification we were going to flood, and there were no emergency services in the village at that point. We’d been checking for alerts all day.”

Danny Croft, pictured outside his home. Picture: NDFP-03-11-20-FloodFishlake 8-NMSY

Paul, aged 65, a former business director, is disabled after a stroke nearly 20 years ago, and the couple got into the car and left the village while they could. They initially headed for the service station on the M18, eventually hearing about an emergency hub at the Salvation Army at 4am, where they stayed for a while and received advice from official agencies.

In the immediate aftermath of the flood, they spent four days at Paul’s sister’s home.

"The village flooded a lot more in some areas than others,” said Debbie. “The water seemed to come across from the River Don, up from Bank Lane.

"Eventually, the insurance company put us up in the Mount Pleasant Hotel, and now we’re now in a flat at Bessacarr near Church Lane.”

Justin Smith, pictured outside his home in Fishlake. Picture: NDFP-03-11-20-FloodFishlake 5-NMSY

The community got together shortly before Christmas with a social event, but Debbie and Paul were still not back in their cottage on Trundle Lane, and felt things were moving slowly. Their possessions were in storage.

Work on the house was due to start in March – but lockdown put a stop to that.

Debbie, who recently retired from her job as a receptionist at Sandringham Health Centre at Intake, said she was unhappy with the speed things were happening for a long time, but the insurers were now pushing to get the work finished. They now have a date when they have told it will be finished, later this month.

"It’s been very very stressful. It has been one thing after another, and the lockdown has not helped. Family cannot come and help us with packing and unpacking

"Now it feels like there is light at the end of the tunnel.”

Justin Smith, a marketing executive, was hit by the floods while dealing with a break up from his wife, and had also recently lost his job. But he feels has been luckier than some in that he moved back to his home at Fishlake Nab in July.

He stayed with his brother initially, but then he said his insurance firm moved quickly.

"Initially, they provided a caravan on my drive, with a mobile kitchen,” he said. “Then I moved back in properly when the work was completed.

"I remember noticing the river levels rising last November. There had already been a lot of rain in October, when the plain was pretty full.

"There was a bang on my door at 11.30pm, saying we had to get out, and water started coming in from that point. I moved the television upstairs and put some things in a bag. I had two springer spaniels, and we all got in the car, moving to higher ground. We ended up in the local pub. The landlady gave me a quilt, and I slept in a corner. The water was 3ft deep at my house.”

Despite what happened, Justin feels a greater desire than ever to live in Fishlake, because of the way what happened brought the community together.

He said he is aware there are flood prevention measures being put in place, and has signed up as a flood warden. A year ago there were five of these. Now Justin is one of 22 wardens in the village.

"It has really galvanised the village,” he said. “It feels tighter than ever. The first time I met my neighbour, I was trying to help him move his possessions upstairs. We are now close friends.

"I feel I really belong here.”

He is part of a group of five in the village creating a book, the sales of which will raise money for those who have suffered hardship due to the flood.

Jade Croft and Danny Greenslade were expecting their first baby as the floods arrived a year ago. Jade went into Labour shortly before the water overflowed from the Don.

It was raining heavily as they left their home at Willow Cottages, picking up Jade’s mum on the way.

By the time baby Indie arrived at 4am, the house was, unknown to them, flooded.

Danny, asleep in a chair on the ward, was woken by a nurse telling him his sister was on the phone to reception. She told him the house had flooded.

Instead of returning home, with the nursery they had created for Indie, they went back to Jade’s parents.

Initially, their insurance firm put them in a rented home in Barnby Dun. They finally returned home in July – during lockdown.

Now nearly a year old, Indie is well, and the family got back from their first famly holiday shortly before the new lockdown started.

"It has been a tough time to bring up a baby,” said Danny. “First there was the floods, then lockdown. It was nice that I was working from home so saw more of Jade and Indie, but it was hard not being able to see family with a baby, and missing out on baby groups, because they closed.”

In these confusing and worrying times, local journalism is more vital than ever. Thanks to everyone who helps us ask the questions that matter by taking out a subscription or buying a paper. We stand together. Nancy Fielder, editor.