BY LISA FALCONER
Over 20 people were trapped in their homes on Monday when flash flooding hit the Leckmelm area near Ullapool in Wester Ross, causing an estimated £80,000 of damage to one property alone.
Among those affected was Lucy Beattie of Leckmelm Farm, who lost animals, crops, business property and was “inches away from being drowned”. With tourists staying in holiday homes at the farm a total of 22 people were trapped, including a two-week-old baby and mother and a disabled woman who had to be evacuated.
Ms Beattie said: “Water built up within 30 minutes and I watched as the burn burst over the top of the trunk road, walls, trapping 22 people on the farm and destroying my entire livelihood.
“The devastation is immense —all houses at the farm flooded, farm buildings ruined, gaping holes six to 12 feet deep in the farm yard and fields. Drystone dykes knocked asunder. Main electric cable exposed. Septic tanks and toilets washed away.
“I estimate my material damage to be £80,000. I have lost all my silage crops – they are not insured – my livestock, my tourism business interrupted and destroyed. It will take probably two years to get back on my feet.”
Just moments after she had checked on 10 sheep and lambs in a field the animals were swept into a 15ft sinkhole which appeared, and Lucy is in no doubt that if she had been any later she would have been killed.
She believes the devastation could have been avoided if culverts on the main A835 road – which was closed by the flooding – were cleared and maintained. It is an issue she has been complaining to Bear Scotland about for 10 years, since another flood caused around £20,000 of damage to the farm. At that time she was told the culverts were “fit for purpose”.
She has now written to Transport Minister Keith Brown calling on him to visit Leckmelm and see the damage for himself, and to take action. Ideally she would like to see another bridge built to replace the culverts, which replaced the original bridge when the new road was built in 1973.
“We are still flooding and the poor tourists are having a holiday in an area that resembles a war zone! They have been so good and understanding,” Lucy said.
Also caught up in the flooding was Ms Beattie’s neighbour, Sot Otter, who was trapped in her house with her boyfriend and two children until they were rescued using a tractor when the flood subsided. She said: “I was in the bedroom and looked out, saw the river was very high, then I looked back about 30 seconds later and it was over and rising and rising – the culverts have been blocked for years – and it was at the door within 20 to 30 minutes. At its deepest it was about six foot and very fast, like rapids. We saw a shed, deer, stones, all swept by — it was very frightening.”
Another neighbour, Andy Shaw, was called from work when the flooding hit, returning to his home to try to save what he could. “When I left to go to work there were odd branches being swept down but I got a call at work and returned, wading across the road, and looked for my cats. One spooked and ran out the door and was swept away higher up.”
He said he had moved a couple of things upstairs then went next door as the water rose. A neighbour put bales out to try to divert the water.
“I am back in the house but it is surrounded by water,” Mr Shaw added. “I have lost sofa, rugs, personal belongings, my shed and some tools, and my lodger has lost belongings too.”