A GROUP of County Durham farmers have launched an appeal to help flood-hit farmers in Somerset.

Tim Sedgewick, of Ricknall Grange Farm, Aycliffe; Henry Hutchinson, of Red Gap Farm, near Wynyard; and Ben Layfield, of Holland Hall Farm, Willington, are co-ordinating a collection of livestock forage and bedding and are asking farmers and hauliers throughout County Durham and North Yorkshire for help.

A range of companies including Tesco and Armstrong Richardson Agri have offered to transport any donated fodder and straw to Sedgemoor Auction Market where an operation is under way to distribute it to those farmers who badly need it.

The distribution is being led by the South West region of the National Farmers Union to help farmers such as James Winslade, who has had to move all of his cattle from his flooded West Yeo Farm.

He has lost 7,800 bales of hay and 3,000 bales of straw – all feed for his animals – to flood water which is two foot deep.

He said: “We couldn’t get lorries on to the farm, the water came up so quick. You can’t get 4x4s down here anymore either. We’ve been shipping cattle out using tractors and trailers and loading them on to lorries on the main road.”

All of his cattle handling facilities are knee-deep in water and his silage is also in almost two feet of water.

Mr Winslade’s story is one of many from the South West where flood water has ruined farmland and threatened the lives of farm animals.

The County Durham trio have arranged for the Church Quarry site off the A167 at Aycliffe Village to be a collection point where forage and straw can be dropped off on Thursday, March 6, at 10am.

John Wade has donated the site to the appeal.

Mr Sedgewick, who works for H&H Land and Property in Durham City, said: “The situation in Somerset and the surrounding areas is shocking. As farmers watching the news we can relate to the heartache the flooding is causing to farm businesses. The whole terrible situation on the ground needs highlighting to the wider public eye.

“We have been overwhelmed by the response we have received from County Durham farmers to boost the aid effort.”

Forage and straw donations dropped off at Church Quarry on March 6 will be transported to Sedgemoor auction mart for distribution.

If that date is inconvenient for a haulier alternative arrangements may be possible.

Anyone wishing to donate bales of hay, haylage, straw or silage is asked to contact Tim Sedgewick (07766 104999), Henry Hutchinson (07821 422922) or Ben Layfield (07917 611483) so they can appeal for transport.