Around a hundred Muchelney residents came out to celebrate the opening of its landmark raised road at the weekend.
Cllr John Osman, Leader of Somerset County Council, performed the formal opening ceremony with the help of local youngsters and some of the village’s oldest residents, including 93-year-old Bill Daniels. They were joined by representatives from Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Service and the Burnham Area Rescue Boat who ferried people to and from the village during the ten weeks it was cut-off by flood waters.
A 500metre stretch of road has been raised, by up to 1.2metres in places, so that it can stay open even in the event of flooding on the same scale as last winter. The County Council-led project was funded by the Department for Transport and undertaken as part of the 20 Year Somerset Levels and Moors Flood Action Plan.
Cllr Osman, who is also Chair Flood Action Plan’s Leaders Implementation Group, said: “It was great to see so many villagers who made it clear just what this project means to Muchelney.
“It’s not just a village; it’s a thriving community with residents of all ages and several businesses. It’s a place that families call home and from which people go to school and to work every day. That is why this road, which will protect access to the village, is so important and why I am so delighted it has been delivered in a fraction of the time that a scheme like this would usually take.”
After the ribbon cutting and sharing of locally produced cider, kindly donated by the Somerset Cider Brandy Company, many villagers took the opportunity to have their first walk on the finished route which will make sure their homes are not cut-off by flood waters again.
Among those helping Cllr Osman with the formalities were village artists Brigid Aita, who presented him with one of her own paintings by way of thanks on behalf of the village, and Alastair Mullineux, Chair of the Parish Meeting.
Mr Mullineux said: “The opening of the raised road in and out of Muchelney was a momentous occasion for the residents. We are no longer an island and even in extreme flood will be able to have access at all times. This is a great relief to us all, but particularly those who leave the village to work and for the children going to school. I would like to thank all those who have been involved in getting this project completed in a short period of time.”
Although most of the village escaped flooding, Muchelney was cut-off for around ten weeks when all four of the roads into the village were submerged last winter. The County Council organised a support boat to ferry residents from the village to nearby Langport for more than nine weeks.
The scheme which started in September has involved the work of more than 100 different people and more than 1,400 ‘person days’ of work. More than 1,100 lorry movements were needed to move materials, including 22,000 tonnes of stone, 2,000 tonnes of topsoil and 2,300 tonnes of macadam.
Photographs from the reopening are available on the Council’s Flickr page www.flickr.com/somersetcountycouncil
You can also view a short message about the road reopening from Robert Goodwill MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V3xTmmjACKo&rel=0
The organisations working to deliver the Flood Action Plan are: Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Somerset County Council, The Environment Agency, Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group, Natural England, Sedgemoor District Council, Somerset Internal Drainage Boards, South Somerset District Council, Taunton Deane Borough Council and Mendip District Council