A willing band of volunteers who work to protect communities across West Somerset from flooding has scooped a top award.
West Somerset Flood Group, set up just two years ago, won the Prince of Wales Award for their tireless work in harnessing community effort and making a practical difference in the district.
Presented by the Royal Bath and West of England Society and the Duchy of Cornwall, the award recognises community groups who have made a difference to their communities in an innovative and sustainable way.
West Somerset Flood Group is made up of 14 towns and parishes and one local flood group who work to make their communities safer from flooding.
Representatives from the group attended the award ceremony at the Royal Bath and West Show along with the four other finalists from across the region – and learning they had won was a complete surprise.
The group was delighted to receive a cut-glass vase, a certificate signed by the Prince of Wales and a cheque for £1,000. Judges were Sarah Bird (Duchy of Cornwall), Rupert Cox (Chief Executive, Bath and West) and Cathy Nicholls (Exmoor Community Youth Club). The club – again West Somerset-based – won the award last year
Dr Teresa Bridgeman, secretary of the flood group, said: “This award recognises the hard work of all the flood volunteers across West Somerset who protect their communities in a very unglamorous way.
“There is not much that is cuddly or heart-warming about clearing gullies and ditches in the rain or lugging sandbags, but our volunteers are out doing it just the same. The award also recognises the towns and parishes who have been prepared to roll up their sleeves and get on with planning for emergencies and who are speaking out for the communities of West Somerset.
“The group is very grateful to the Royal Bath and West of England Society and to the Duchy of Cornwall for presenting us with this award but we would also like to say thank you to our local risk management authorities and colleagues on the District Flood Board for taking the time to listen to what we have to say and for responding so positively.”
The judges had met 22 volunteers from the flood group at Williton Fire Station last month and were told about the work the volunteers are doing for their local communities across the district.
In the past two years the group has become a voice for West Somerset, providing a bridge between local communities and the authorities. It represents towns and parishes on the District Flood Board, which it helped create, bringing together communities and experts to discuss local issues and to plan funding applications to bodies such as the Somerset Rivers Authority.
The group has already brought hundreds of thousands of pounds of funding into West Somerset for road drainage improvements, river maintenance and property level protection.
Currently, members are working on closer liaison with the emergency services and on a catchment management project with the Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group South West. Catchment management is already a focus for the Royal Bath and West of England Society which has been the driving force in setting up the Hills to Levels project.
Cllr Anthony Trollope-Bellew, Leader of West Somerset Council, said he was delighted the flood group had won such prestigious recognition: “This is a tremendous achievement and just reward for the extraordinary amount of work carried out by volunteers. They are true pioneers, setting an example that could and should be followed across the country.”
PHOTO: Pictured at the award presentation are (from left): Doug Human (flood volunteer from Williton); Michael Eavis (President of the Royal Bath and West of England Society), Teresa Bridgeman (founder and secretary of the West Somerset Flood Group), Sarah Bird (assistant land steward, Duchy of Cornwall, judge) Alistair Martin (Secretary and Keeper of the Records for the Duchy of Cornwall). Photo courtesy of the Royal Bath & West.