Sheep was unwitting life-saver during floods

Tiny creatures jump aboard a stranded ewe to avoid the rising waters in the River Axe

A stranded sheep became a Noah’s Ark for desperate creatures fighting for survival during the recent Axe Valley floods.

East Devon District Council’s Countryside team found the woolly life-saver battling the rising water in the River Axe, when torrential rains hit the area on Saturday, July 7.

Fraser Rush and Doug Rudge waded in to help drag the sheep to safety and noticed that some of the Wetlands’ smaller mammals had climbed onto her back to stay out of the flooding.

One intrepid shrew promptly ran up Doug’s arm and sat on his head – where it stayed while he continued to get the sheep to safety - a 20 minute operation.

Doug said: “It just goes to show how wildlife instinctively know the comparative danger of the flooding to the danger posed by an animal many, many times larger than itself. I had never heard of shrews behaving in such a manner – it was quite a strange experience.”

The whole of the Axe Estuary Wetlands was submerged by the flooding - a good test of the new buildings which had been built to withstand just such conditions. Small sections of floor in the field studies classroom are designed to lift and float so that water can inundate the building before draining away again as the flood subsides.

Most Read

Rangers say this worked extremely well and school groups were once again expected to be able to use the classroom by the end of last week.

Unfortunately some of the pathways did not do so well and the surface of the main track from the car park to the field studies base was badly damaged.

A team of Wetlands volunteers have begun the clearing up operation removing the silt and getting the information centre ready for re-opening.

A spokesman added: “The countryside team is, as always, very grateful to the stalwart volunteers who commit so much time, energy and enthusiasm to help look after the Wetlands. Anyone would like to join them should give Fraser Rush a call on 07734 568937.