Farmers count the cost as rivers wash away season's harvest: Jonathan Foster reports from the ruined potato fields and soaked villages of Lincolnshire

TRICKLE-DOWN effects from the floods at Brandy Wharf may not hit the nation's chip shops until next year, but rural communities between the Humber and the Wash were yesterday already bracing themselves for hard times after the rains.

All of Brian Tutty's 13 acres of potatoes are saturated, probably ruined. They lie beneath the spillage from the river Ancholme, which rose 10 feet and soaked the flat Lincolnshire landscape.

At Toll Bar farm, on the opposite bank, the Dinsdale family were up early yesterday moving sheep to higher ground and rescuing a herd of cows in calf from imminent danger of being marooned.

The Dinsdales have 200 acres which should have been sown with corn by now.

The Tuttys drilled their corn just before the heavens opened. 'The seed will be no good. We're very concerned,' Mr Tutty said. 'This has always been the week when we lifted potatoes.'

Local merchants and the National Farmers' Union say cabbage and carrot prices will rise this week and potato prices will rise later this year.

The Ancholme subsided a few inches yesterday, watched stoically from Brandy Wharf's cider tavern by locals whose tap room came perilously close to submergence. 'It was worse in 1981 - 80 per cent of the land was under water then,' one man said.

Much of Lincolnshire is a natural waterland. Man has drained and dyked, but remained fatalistically aware that the waters can return. Throughout the Ancholme valley roads were awash yesterday, but only six homes and one pub were flooded throughout the county, thanks in part to cautious choice of building sites. At the village of Glentworth, 250 gallons of river water a minute were pouring down the street early yesterday, but only the village hall was cut off. Four boats sank at a marina. The river Lud drew close to sand bank defences at Louth, but then backed off.

The small town of Brigg could awake today to find swans circumnavigating its supermarket. The Ancholme swept past the birds yesterday and almost lifted a small cabin cruiser off the river. The river Witham, emptying into the Wash, was last night filling and, like the Ancholme, could be plugged by high incoming tides. Soldiers with sandbags were last night standing by.

The National Rivers Authority said a 'red alert' remained on most of the rivers after the equivalent of October's average rainfall fell in 36 hours. A further 25mm was expected overnight.

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