Devastated at loss

PUBLISHED: 15:30 07 November 2008 | UPDATED: 09:58 10 June 2010

SHEEP farmers had the grim task of removing the corpses of an award-winning flock of sheep from Budleigh beach last week, after freak-flooding carried them several miles down stream. Up to 20 bodies of Clinton Devon Estates' pedigree breeding flock, which

SHEEP farmers had the grim task of removing the corpses of an award-winning flock of sheep from Budleigh beach last week, after freak-flooding carried them several miles down stream.Up to 20 bodies of Clinton Devon Estates' pedigree breeding flock, which were wiped out in less than 30 minutes - with the remainder swept out to sea - were found.During last Thursday's floods, up to three dozen Texel-cross-Mule shearling ewes, kept on land between Newton Poppleford and Otterton, were swept down the River Otter and lost.The crme of the prize-winning flock, which has taken nearly 40 years to breed, were being kept in two fields, apart from the 1,300 flock of breeding ewes, when the River Otter swelled and breached its banks.George Perrott, Clinton Devon Estates' farm manager, said: "It's like an Olympic swimming team - you can get new ones but you can never replace them."They were the very best we had, and took a lifetime to breed. We are devastated."He said they found only half the bodies - and assumed the rest had been washed out to sea: "We have never seen anything like it, the intensity of the flooding."We must have lost 40 acres of top soil. It just happened so quickly, between 5am and day break, in less than half-an-hour."He said the most infuriating thing was that it didn't even rain on the fields; and that the flooding came after Ottery St Mary and Tipton St John, further up the River Otter, flooded. This produced a domino affect, leading to the river bursting its banks and flooding nearly 40 acres."My shepherd Graham Hill went down to the river at about midnight after a Environment Agency weather warning - and during flooding there is normally an indication that water levels are starting to rise, but there was nothing. A lifetime of breeding wiped out - just like that.

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