VILLAGES along the River Tees bore the brunt of the flooding in the Darlington area, with Hurworth and Croft cut off as roads became impassable.

The river peaked at 30.7ft in mid-afternoon in Croft and Hurworth Place, causing the river to burst its banks, with the water spilling onto the road at Hurworth Place.

Traffic was able to make it through both villages until mid-afternoon when every road between Darlington, Hurworth, Croft, Middleton St George and Neasham was closed by police as the conditions worsened.

Sue Coates, a former Croft parish council chairwoman, said there was no sense of rising panic in the village, but added that today would be crucial if a lot of water comes off surrounding hills – potentially making a serious problem a lot worse.

She said: “I have known the river to be this high before, but what has not been this high is Clow Beck, on the other side of the village, which was absolutely full of water.”

The flooding at Clow Beck forced staff at the Clow Beck Centre, an organic farm that works with young people, to take to the fields to rescue some of their animals from the rising water and carry them to safety.

Darlington town centre avoided the worst of the flooding, although parts of Haughton, in particular Haughton Road, suffered through the day when the River Skerne broke its banks, causing rush-hour traffic chaos when the road was closed in the afternoon.

Meanwhile, Darlington Borough Council has defended its work to keep gullies and drains clear after surface water caused problems for motorists and farmers in some areas of the borough.

Peter Kitching, 48, of Great Stainton, near Darlington, a farmer for more than 20 years, called on the council and the Environment Agency to increase flood prevention work in the area.

He said: “I do not think I have seen rain like this ever before. All these houses and roads have been built and we never seem to see anyone clearing drains and manhole covers.”

Mr Kitching estimated that about half the residents in the village did not make it into work yesterday as a result of the weather.

The council rejected Mr Kitching’s criticism about flood prevention measures.

A spokeswoman said: “All drains and gullies are monitored on an equal basis across the borough and cleaned as part of routine maintenance.

“It is important to bear in mind we have been subject to a month’s rainfall for September in only 24 hours.

“Drainage and gulley systems are not currently set up to cope with this volume of water in a such a short period.”