ONE YEAR ago, communities were devastated by floods caused by Storm Dennis.

For many, things went from bad to worse as they faced trying to recover from the impact of the flooding in the midst of the pandemic.

At the Olway Inn in Usk, managers Nicola Cole and Matt Baker have been flooded five times since Storm Dennis, when they were also hit hard.

When they were flooded on December 23 – it was the twentieth time in the last 15 years.

Ms Cole says they have had no financial support from the Welsh Government, they can’t get insurance and are losing thousands.

She has reiterated calls for a thorough investigation, and believes the Olway brook beside the pub needs to be dredged more regularly.

The community has raised thousands for them over the years – including more than £7,000 in December.

“We applied for funding to help us through the flooding in February last year and we got nothing,” she said. “We’ve now asked for business rates relief, because we’re worried with how much we’ve lost with Covid and the flooding, business rates would put us in an almost impossible position.

“I feel it isn’t being taken seriously enough. We’ve not had the support needed. We know it’s been a tough year – but this is really serious, it wrecks people’s lives.

“Without our community we wouldn’t be here. We didn’t realise how appreciated we were until recent months with the money that’s been raised for us. It’s overwhelmingly lovely, but we shouldn’t need to rely on them like this.”

The Rev Penny Powdrill – vicar at Dixton Church (St Peter’s) in Monmouth – echoed sentiments of community spirit. Her church has also flooded twice since – with the most recent coming just two weeks ago.

Just 30 metres from the Wye, the water level in February at the church was above six feet, and caused significant damage to the building.

“It’s not been easy by any means, but what we have seen is a community – mostly made up of people who wouldn’t come to the church very often in ordinary times – coming and helping us,” she said.

“They’ve felt a connection to this place, whether that’s a connection because they care for a beautiful ancient building, or a connection in a religious way.”

Asked whether she is frustrated over the regular floods, she said: “We’re ‘the church that floods’ – that’s what we’re known as, so there’s probably not much point being annoyed by it.

“The frustrating thing is that we’ve had to stop the face-to-face services due to Covid, and there are a lot of elderly people who are not able to have that time here at the moment, but the response to the flooding has been a significant positive throughout all of this.”

A community group called ‘Friends of the Dixton Church’ has been set up by people who helped in response to Storm Dennis, and has been called on since.

Husband and wife Rozi and Rob Morris, who live on Hadnock Road in Monmouth, were flooded a day before Mr Morris had an operation to remove a cancer on his liver.

Now well, Mr Morris has reflected on what he called a “traumatic year” where he had to undergo his treatment away from the family home after they were evacuated for six months.

After a pumping station beside the Wye was flooded on February 15, he says sewage which would usually be pushed through the station began to overflow from the river, and ended up in his home – around half a mile away.

“It was disgusting – the smell was horrendous, and within two hours it was about two-and-a-half feet deep,” he said.

“The following day I was in hospital for treatment and the insurers then told us we had to move out for six months.”

Mrs Morris’s mum, Amy Winifred Hawkins, recently turned 110 and is the oldest woman in Wales.

“We’ve had me with cancer, the house being flooded, and looking after Rozi’s mum during a pandemic,” he added. “It’s been a traumatic year really, but we’re really delighted to come out the other end.”

Work is still being carried out on the outside of their home, and Mr Morris says he does sometimes worry whether it will happen again.

In October Natural Resources Wales said the storm should act as a ‘pivotal moment’ in the way Wales reacts to extreme weather.

The agency’s recommended approach would combine physical flood defences with more natural forms of flood management and “improved community resilience”.

Clare Pillman, chief executive, said: “There are things that can and have been addressed quickly. Other areas of improvement require significant investment, design and planning and will take some time, possibly years, to resolve.

“But there are lessons to learn and improvements to be made for all bodies responsible for flood risk management. While we can’t attribute every storm to the effects of climate change, the scientific evidence suggests we are likely to see more of these extreme weather events in the future.”