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Tidal surge damage to the Secret Gardens, the Quay and Gazen Salts in Sandwich

19 December 2013
by Emily Stott

Across Sandwich homes were flooded, gardens destroyed and wildlife drowned in the tidal surge of two weeks ago.

Gazen Salts Nature Reserve will be unable to open for the foreseeable future as it deals with the after-effects of the surge.

The Secret Gardens is looking at £300,000 worth of damage to plants and flowers, and homes along The Quay have suffered damage to flooring and ruined electrical appliances.

Karen Potter, warden and project organiser at Gazen Salts Nature Reserve, said: “The water is salinated which means it kills anything that’s living.

“There have already been about 300 dead fish. The greatest concern is the impact it would have had on our water voles, that will be very serious.

“The majority of their tunnels would have been under water, so whether or not they could find safe ground or not we do not know.”

Gazen Salts is a registered charity and is appealing for donations to pay for the damage and help to get the reserve up and running again.

The Secret Gardens in Sandwich was submerged in more than five feet of water and the owner of the Grade II listed area at The Salutation says the damage could run into millions.

Owner Dominic Parker said: “Visually it looks like a bomb went off, there’s an awful lot of damage where the water came up over the bank and under the fences.”

There has been damage to machinery and rare species of plants and flowers may not survive.

He added: “About 25% of our gardens were under salt water, containing the bulk of herbaceous plants we have planted out there. If it all goes then the sky’s the limit as to the cost of the damage.”

Around eight homes along The Quay were also flooded with residents of The Quay Cottage forced to move from their home.

Cllr Jeremy Watts, who lives on The Quay said: “My property had four inches of water, all the ground floor was covered and we’ve lost all the floor coverings and the skirtings have had to be ripped off.

“We were able to move most of the furniture upstairs but we lost a washing machine and dishwasher in the kitchen.

“The main damage is to the fabric of the building.

“The water got into the walls so we will have to have some parts re-plastered.”


Despite the community spirit and hard work of the Environment Agency not everything went to plan...

A lack of police presence, empty sandbags and haphazard evacuation were just some of the problems highlighted during the floods in Sandwich.

At the Sandwich Town Council meeting on Monday, Cllr Jeremy Watts explained that the emergency plan which should have been put in place by the district council had not been completed before the tidal surge.

He added: “The police did not evacuate anyone along The Quay, we had no visits from the emergency services. No one checked to see if there were any vulnerable people living there.

“Empty sandbags were provided and people were expected to fill them up at the car park. A lot of pensioners live along there. How were they expected to carry them back?”

The emergency plan is being drawn up to give towns across the district advice on the procedures to take in case of a disaster.

"No one checked to see if there were any vulnerable people living there"- Cllr Jeremy Watts


Cllr Pip Russell has been working with the district council – but the training she was due to go on to complete the plan was scheduled for the Tuesday after the floods.

Cllr Russell said: “Myself and Laura Sandys were there till two in the morning and it was only after the event that we realised some homes had been flooded. With the emergency plan I can only apologise that it was not finished sooner.”

Cllr Watts added: “Just because we got away with it this time doesn’t mean we can rest on our laurels.

“We’ve got to make sure the emergency plan is up and running.

“There hasn’t been any sense of urgency in getting it completed.”

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