'Never seen anything like it' - town's sigh of relief after flooding scare

Thetford has experienced some of its worst flooding for decades

Thetford has experienced some of its worst flooding for decades - Credit: Victoria Pertusa

A town is breathing a sigh of relief after homes and businesses escaped largely unscathed from the worst flooding seen for decades.

People in Thetford were left fearing the worst on Boxing Day evening as hundreds in the area were told to flee their homes following heavy rainfall.

With the River Thet said to have burst its banks for the first time in 50 years, and water levels on the Little Ouse River rising rapidly, the same message was given to dozens of families in Brandon and Hockwold.

Flood warnings remained in place on Sunday, and there was a feeling of shock in Thetford as locals surveyed the aftermath of recent downpours. 

At one stage, the famous Captain Mainwaring statue off Bridge Street was up to its knees in water, while Butten Island remained completely cut off on Sunday afternoon. 

Some pedestrians and cyclists attempted to wade into the murky depths, while intrepid kayakers demonstrated the town's drastic transformation. 

Jane James was left cursing her luck after receiving evacuation alerts for her home, on Primrose Close, and her business, Not Just Books, on Riverside Walk.

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Both emerged without major incident but, with the help of friends, the town and district councillor has moved all her stock upstairs for peace of mind. 

Jane James received an evacuation warning for both her home and business in Thetford

Jane James received an evacuation warning for both her home and business in Thetford - Credit: Victoria Pertusa

"The alert for the shop came out first, so we cleared near the window and I thought I might sleep a bit easier," said Mrs James. "Then at 7.30pm the warning for home came out, so that became a bit of a sleepless night.

"We packed bags ready just in case we had to evacuate, but in the end we didn't and all is well. The river has risen considerably, so we thought we'd come down to the shop again today and move everything up.

"There's a silver lining as it's been great for burning off Christmas calories but, now we've gone into Tier 4 and can't open, we could really do without it.

Thetford has experienced some of its worst flooding for decades

Thetford has experienced some of its worst flooding for decades - Credit: Victoria Pertusa

"It's been a while since I've seen Thetford flooded like this. We've seen the river rise, but not to this extent.

"We can only be prepared and do our best to help out others."

Barry and Maryska Sumner, who live on Nightingale Way, moved to Thetford just 15 months ago and were staggered on Sunday to see the flooding's aftermath.

They admitted they have "never seen anything like it" in the flesh.

Maryska and Barry Sumner said they had "never seen anything like it" as they surveyed the aftermath of flooding in Thetford

Maryska and Barry Sumner said they had "never seen anything like it" as they surveyed the aftermath of flooding in Thetford - Credit: Victoria Pertusa

"It's incredible," said Mr Sumner. "We're just feeling sorry for the people who live close to the worst of it.

"Where we live there's a field behind us and we can see all the water running down."

Mrs Sumner added: "How awful, with it being Christmas, to have to deal with this on top. Nobody needs it. 

"We came out for a walk on Boxing Day and we were blocked off in various areas. If anything, the water is higher today in some places."

Thetford has experienced its worst flooding for decades

Thetford has experienced its worst flooding for decades - Credit: Victoria Pertusa

As he and his wife inspected the fallout off Mill Lane, Colin Thompson said: "I've lived in Thetford for 17 years and have never seen it like this before.

"My wife, who's local, remembers it being like once or twice when she was a child, but certainly not recently.

"She said I would need my wellies this morning, but I didn't realise I'd need an aqualung as well."

Thetford has experienced some of its worst flooding for decades

Thetford has experienced some of its worst flooding for decades - Credit: Victoria Pertusa

In Brandon, the water level on the Little Ouse River was extremely high, with homes and businesses on High Street, Riverside Way and Teal Walk most at risk of flooding.

Flood water had not quite breached rear gardens on Riverside Way, but the adjacent Little Ouse Path was impassable in the direction of Thetford.

The Little Ouse Path was impassable in Brandon after flooding

The Little Ouse Path was impassable in Brandon after flooding - Credit: Archant

While largely grateful to have avoided more serious ramifications, households were busily making preparations for even more flooding. 

According to warnings from the Environment Agency, further rainfall on Sunday into Monday (December 28) means river levels are expected to remain high.

Water levels along the Little Ouse River in Brandon were extremely high

Water levels along the Little Ouse River in Brandon were extremely high - Credit: Archant

The agency is expected to continue issuing advice to residents on their best course of action.

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