Flash flooding forces family out of home in Little Whelnetham

A couple’s lives have been turned upside down by last week’s heavy rain which caused severe flooding across West Suffolk and shut the A134.

Claire Gouge and Ian Smith have been unable to return home since Thursday when the ground floor of their riverside cottage in Little Whelnetham became flooded with 2ft of water.

Flood in Sudbury Road, Little Whelnetham - photo by Angus Loring

Flood in Sudbury Road, Little Whelnetham - photo by Angus Loring

They rushed back from work after being contacted by police and, on seeing the volume of water, became immediately concerned about their pet dog, Pebbles, who was home alone.

Ian got electrocuted when he first went in to find the four-year-old Yorkshire terrier, who had avoided drowning by climbing onto a dining table.

The father-of-three thinks she must have used ‘floating’ pieces of furniture to reach the high table.

He said: “The first thing I saw when I came in was the fridge floating and I thought ‘oh my God, I hope Pebbles is alright’. When I came in here [the lounge] she had jumped up onto the table - I think the coffee table or settee must have floated that way.”

Claire Gouge and Ian Smith

Claire Gouge and Ian Smith

Claire, a mother-of-two, said: “I got here and I just cried. I couldn’t even enter the building because there was so much water and it was too dangerous – it was just below my windowsill.”

A spokeswoman for the Environment Agency said 20mm of rain fell in a such a short space of time that the River Lark became bottlenecked and overflowed on to the A134 which runs into Sudbury Road, opposite Claire and Ian’s home.

Catherine Loring saw the water level rising through a window at the nearby Colne Stoves.

She said the road was ‘pretty much submerged’ and lorries and cars were travelling down it and creating waves of water.

Pebbles - photo by Ian Smith

Pebbles - photo by Ian Smith

Claire blames what happened to her home on the bad maintenance of drains in Sudbury Road, something she has been complaining to the county council about since 2014.

A spokesman for Suffolk County Council said that while it had taken ‘some time’ to react to drainage concerns along Sudbury Road, that had not caused the flooding.

He said: “It is fair to say that it has taken some time to address the highways drainage concern along this road. We are currently working to install a new drainage system to alleviate previous concerns in regards to the storm drains located along this stretch of road.

“The flash flooding that residents experienced the other day during unseasonal heavy rain, was a direct result of the nearby water course, that runs alongside these properties on private land, blocking and flooding with obstacles where private driveways lead from the highway.

Flooded house in Little Whelnetham - photo by Ian Smith

Flooded house in Little Whelnetham - photo by Ian Smith

“Landowners and residents do need to ensure these channels are kept clear to reduce the risk of flooding in the area.”

Thursday’s flash flooding also affected Sicklesmere, Bradfield St George, Stanningfield and Lavenham.

The flooded cottage - photo by Ian Smith

The flooded cottage - photo by Ian Smith