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Whaley Bridge: RAF Chinook drops 400 tonnes of sand onto Toddbrook Reservoir dam

A reservoir at risk of collapsing in a Peak District market town is still in critical condition and poses a ‘substantial threat to life’ should its walls fail, more than 24 hours after it began to crumble.

Engineers and emergency workers are scrambling to save the Toddbrook Reservoir in Derbyshire to prevent millions of tonnes of water from pouring through and laying waste to an entire town.

Residents will be allowed to go back to their homes in Whaley Bridge briefly to collect their pets and belongings, but it will be one person per household and they will go ‘at their own risk’, said Kem Mehmet, assistant chief constable at Derbyshire Constabulary.

He said residents would be escorted to their homes in a ‘controlled’ fashion and urged people not to go near the village without help from the police.

Mr Mehmet added that the water level at the dam had been dropped by half a metre, and further pumps are being brought in to lower it further.

Earlier today, a Royal Air Force Chinook helicopter hovered over the reservoir and dropped dozens of sandbags to seal its damaged wall.

Officials told of a ’50/50 chance’ the dam would collapse after residents spent a worrying night away from their homes amid the ‘critical’ situation following five days of downpours.

Engineers were ‘very concerned’ as they scrambled to save the 19th century dam which could be set to burst any minute.  

Officers spent hours going door-to-door around homes in the village, as residents fled the area in case the 1.3million tonnes of water contained in the huge Georgian-era Toddbrook Reservoir starts to escape. 

Families were turning up in tears at the evacuation point of a school three miles away in Chapel-en-le-Frith as they were put up in hotels in the Buxton area and police also told them of a 50/50 chance the dam would be breached.

Panicked residents took to social media to say they were concerned about criminals targeting their unoccupied homes.

But Derbyshire Constabulary told MailOnline that a police cordon was in place and roadblocks had been set up around the town. 

The Environment Agency issued a severe ‘danger to life’ flood warning after 82.8mm (3in) of rain fell on the hills above Whaley Bridge in 48 hours up to yesterday afternoon, the equivalent of a month’s worth of rain. 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Environment Secretary Theresa Villiers will chair a Cobra emergency response committee meeting to discuss the situation, and his ‘thoughts are with those who have had to leave their homes’.  

Whaley Bridge councillor David Lomax told LBC Radio that there was a ’50/50 chance’ the dam would collapse – and the worst case scenario would be an ‘awful lot of damage’, although it would not ‘wipe out the town’.

He said the main shopping area are under the dam, and the emergency services were doing ‘a lot of work’ during a spell of dry weather. Mr Lomax warned residents they would not be able to return for at least a couple of days.

Engineers will now be closely watching the forecast for this weekend, with showers for North West England possible on Saturday, before heavier rain arrives on Sunday that could again affect plans to avert a breach. 

Derbyshire Constabulary held a press conference at 6pm tonight, during which it said the dam wall was still at a ‘critical level’.

Kem Mehmet said: ‘We have lowered the water level by half a metre and further pumps are on route to help lower the level of the dam. 

‘I must stress that the structural integrity of the dam wall is still at a critical level and there is still a substantial threat to life should the dam wall fail.

‘So our plea is that we would ask for residents to continue to heed police advise and stay away from Whaley Bridge.’

Mr Mehmet said he could not give residents assurances on when they could return to their homes, but added that anyone who enters the village ‘does so at their own risk’.

The reservoir, which contains 1.3 million tonnes of water, has seen ‘extensive’ damage from flooding including a huge hole in the dam wall – with the helicopter sent from RAF Odiham in Hampshire to assist emergency efforts. 

The Chinook was putting gravel on the damaged section of the spillway, with engineers saying the crucial puddle clay core of the dam was intact – but the load on the core lost when the earth was eroded had to be replaced. 

Wing Commander Gary Lane, the RAF liaison officer at the scene, said: ‘Once the call from the civilian authorities came, we rapidly deployed an RAF Chinook and support crews to provide this vital support. 

‘We will continue to use the skills of our highly trained air and groundcrew and the astonishing lift capability of the Chinook to assist in ensuring the safety of the public.’

Videos shared by Shirebrook Fire Station showed the Chinook laden with the aggregate as it flew above the area and hovered above the the dam wall. Police said 400 tonnes of aggregate would be brought by the RAF.

Julie Odams from Derbyshire County Council said around 1,000 people were evacuated and most found their own accommodation with family and friends. 

The council also found a small number of people places to stay in hotels in the Buxton area, which meant nobody needed to sleep overnight at the rest centre set up at the high school in Chapel-en-le-Frith. She said the centre remained open for anyone who needed help.

‘The evacuation generally was very, very smooth but it was disruptive for people and the time for leaving wasn’t great so people weren’t able to collect everything they wanted to,’ Ms Odams said. ‘We’ve not had anybody who’s been very distressed or anything like that. The evacuation has been very orderly.’

Julie Sharman, chief operating officer of the Canal and River Trust which runs the reservoir, said efforts were ongoing today to protect the structure and reduce the amount of water being held back by the dam.

‘The operation loading the front face of the dam using the Chinook helicopter is in process and is going to go on for most of the day here,’ she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. ‘Additional pumping is going in and the good news is that the inflow to the reservoir has reduced considerably. We’ve lowered the level of the water in the reservoir by 200mm (8in). 

‘We are obviously aiming to get that down considerably more. The primary task at the moment is to load the front face of the dam to secure the structure, in parallel with lowering the water.’

Deputy Chief Constable Rachel Swann, chairwoman of the Local Resilience Forum, said: ‘At this time the future of the dam wall remains in the balance and I would remind people of the very real danger posed to them should the wall collapse.’

Firefighters deployed from across the country used at least ten high volume pumps to reduce water to a safe level before work will begin to repair the dam wall. 

Derbyshire’s Chief Fire Officer Terry McDermott said there were 150 firefighters at the site, with ten high-volume pumping crews from around the UK. He said the priority was reducing the level of the water behind the dam wall. 

Speaking in nearby Chapel-en-le-Frith, Mr McDermott said: ‘It does seem to be starting to reduce now. I think a lot of that is because the amount of water going into the reservoir has slowed down.’

But he said engineers remain ‘very concerned’, adding: ‘The structural engineer is saying if we don’t do something there will be a problem. It’s not going to go away on its own. It’s absolutely necessary, the activity that’s going on.’

Mr Johnson tweeted: ‘My thoughts are with those who have had to leave their homes and all of those who are affected in Whaley Bridge. First responders, engineers and RAF crews are working around the clock to fix the dam.

‘I have just spoken to Gold Commander and Deputy Chief Constable Rachel Swann to thank them for their ongoing efforts and I have instructed the Environment Secretary to chair a COBR meeting later today.’

Many people were told to leave their homes and directed to the evacuation point in Chapel-en-le-Frith. Police added that a timescale for people to be able to return to their homes is ‘currently unknown’. 

Ms Villiers said: ‘This morning I am receiving regular updates from the ground on the situation in Whaley Bridge and the fast action being taken by the police and other agencies.

‘Later today I will chair a meeting of the Government’s emergency COBR committee to make sure everything possible is being done to draw down water levels, fix damage to the dam and protect homes and businesses.

‘My thoughts are with those who have had to leave their homes and I would like to thank all emergency services, military personnel and all others for their continued hard work.’  

Dr Mohammed Heidarzadeh, a professor from the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Brunel University London, said the damage to the reservoir spillway put the entire dam structure at risk. 

He said: ‘The spillway is now broken and a big chunk of its concrete structure is damaged. There is a possibility that the spillway could then become fully broken in a few hours. If the spillway is fully gone, the embankment dam will be washed away very rapidly which could cause a massive flood.’

Richard Parry, chief executive of the Canal and River Trust, which runs the reservoir, warned last night that it could be ‘at least 24 hours’ until they can rule out the dam collapsing.

‘We clearly don’t know the nature of the failure, we’ve not had the opportunity to examine it, but we’re operating in a very precautionary way with the other agencies,’ he told BBC Newsnight.

‘Our first priority is to draw down the water and it’s very important that we do keep everyone out of the area until that is done. It will be at least 24 hours, it could be longer, it really depends on how much progress we can make overnight and into tomorrow morning.’ 

He added that the last annual inspection of the structure by a senior engineer was last November.

Minister for the Armed Forces Mark Lancaster added: ‘The Armed Forces continues to support local authorities in tackling the flooding we have seen across many parts of the UK. 

‘The rapid response of the RAF in deploying a Chinook helicopter will provide extra support in Derbyshire and we stand ready to assist in any way required. 

The Environment Agency issued a ‘danger to life’ warning covering the River Goyt, as the river could ‘rise rapidly’ due to water rushing in from the reservoir.

A small number of properties in the areas of Furness Vale and New Mills, outside Whaley Bridge but inside the flood risk area, were also evacuated last night.

A local resident said that another section of the spillway – designed to release water – further collapsed.

Carolyn Whittle, who lives in Meadowfield, on the hillside in Whaley Bridge, said: ‘Another section of the concrete on the dam face has now collapsed.’

The 45-year-old, who works for GM Moving, said: ‘I’ve lived in Whaley for the best part of 45 years, and I’ve never seen water flood over the dam like that, ever, nor thought that we could possibly be at risk in this way.’ 

Evacuees were told to gather at the school in Chapel-en-le-Frith or head further afield to stay with family or friends following fears over the reservoir, which was built in 1831 and drains a 43-acre catchment area. 

Police urged residents to ensure they took any pets and medication ‘for a number of days’, and asked people to ‘make alternative arrangements to stay with friends and family’. 

The force said the evacuation was ‘not a decision that has been taken lightly’, adding: ‘We appreciate that there is significant impact on this community, however, this is an unprecedented, fast-moving, emergency situation.’ 

Just before midnight last night Derbyshire Police said they had put in place an action plan, which included using water pumps to remove water from the reservoir to relieve pressure on the dam wall. 

Residents in the area have said they ‘have never seen anything like it’, despite living in the area all of their lives, one local also added that it was the worst flood in the village in living memory. 

The rest of the plan was for 400 tonnes of aggregate to divert water from entering the reservoir and into other surrounding watercourses designed for the purpose. 

Police said once those measures reduce the water to a level that is safe, work will begin on the dam wall itself. 

Last night Sarah Edgar, resident of Whaley Bridge since October 18, left with her husband, David and ten-year-old son just before residents were evacuated. 

The family live around a quarter of a mile from the dam. She said: ‘We have been keeping an eye on it since yesterday. It was torrential rain. I checked Facebook and everyone was saying how bad it was. 

‘Our garden and the houses opposite have a brook separating them and that became a raging river, it’s washed thins away in the neighbours garden. 

‘It used to be ten foot down from garden level and yesterday it was overflowing. This morning we got up and when we heard about the damage to the dam we knew we were going to be evacuated so we left earlier because my son would be panicking. 

‘It was scary, neighbours who’ve lived there for 15 years said they’d never seen anything like it. We moved from Buxworth in October last year, we wish we’d stayed there. 

‘I’ve never known it to flow over like that. The police told us to take medication, animals and prepare for a few days away. My husband is a landscape gardener so he hasn’t been able to work’.  

Meanwhile one owner of a nearby local pub told which has also been evacuated told of how she called her partner to tell him it was time to leave.

Speaking to the BBC, Jennifer, owner of the Goyt Inn said: ‘Bring the dog. We have to get out. The dam is a mess. It really looks very unsafe and there’s a lot of water in that reservoir.’ 

Officers said people with nowhere to go will be accommodated, but ‘there is limited capacity to do so’. They added: ‘If you are unable to leave your own home and require assistance please contact 101 and ask for the police.’

The National Fire Chiefs Council said firefighters pumped tonnes of water from the reservoir following significant rainfall resulting in it overflowing.

It added: ‘At least ten High Volume Pumps and a number of firefighters from across the country have already been deployed to assist as part of the National Fire Chiefs Council’s National Resilience response. 

‘In addition, a number of specialised members of staff including tactical advisers are at the scene. More assets could be deployed as the situation unfolds.

‘Levels in Derbyshire’s River Goyt could rise rapidly due to water coming from the nearby Toddbrook Reservoir, which contains 1.3 million tonnes of water and the dam holding it back contains 300 million gallons of water. 

‘There are concerns the reservoir walls could collapse, flooding nearby homes. A wall around Toddbrook Reservoir is already showing extensive damage.’

Network Rail confirmed Northern trains between Hazel Grove and Buxton stopped in both directions and will only run again when emergency services confirm it is safe for them to do so.

Rail passengers on the Liverpool Lime Street / Nottingham / Norwich line also had their journeys disrupted as a result of the dam threatening to collapse.

An East Midlands Trains spokesman said: ‘This rail closure of the Hope Valley follows a request by police in relation to the damaged dam at Toddbrook Reservoir, Whaley Bridge. We are working closely with other agencies to enable the railway to be re-opened as soon as it is safe to do so.’

Lee Rawlinson, area director at the Environment Agency, said: ‘We don’t issue severe flood warnings lightly but you can imagine the volume of water that sits behind that reservoir. If there was to be a catastrophic failure then that would have a huge significant effect on those living downstream.’

Local residents were given an ‘Appendix B – Evacuation Card’ which explained the major incident. It read: ‘There is a concern that you and your property are at risk from Toddbrook Reservoir, EVACUATE YOUR PROPERTY NOW.’ 

It then goes on to give a list of instruction of what people in the area need to do, however the paper was dated April 2018. Residents have become overwhelmed, with some worried that they won’t be able to get out.

Retired reporter Steve Cliffe, 66, said neighbours in the hamlet of Fernilee were flooded and cut off. ‘The problem is we just can’t get out,’ he said. Fernilee is about 1.5 miles outside Whaley Bridge, up the hill.  

‘What seems to have happened is that during the real cloud bust, water has come down the main road up above us, and has been siphoned down this lane. It’s never had that quantity come down it before. 

‘It has ripped up the road surface and bedrock underneath, and now there’s rocks and debris deposited all over the place.’ 

But some residents were determined to stay. Andrew McLackland said he would remain in his home, despite his wife and son evacuating, adding: ‘The officers didn’t want to let me back through after I got my son out; my wife picked him up. It’s health and safety gone mad.’ 

Emma Potts, 35, came to check on her 64-year-old mother, and told the Manchester Evening News: ‘My mum won’t go. She’s got two dogs and a cat and doesn’t want to leave them. 

‘A few of her neighbours are in the same boat. She says if it does start to flood she’ll head up the path that runs up the hill next to her house and they said at least she had a plan. Everyone is really worried, especially looking at the river. 

‘But I’ve just read a pub in Chapel is putting on meals for everyone and people are offering to move horses into their fields. Everyone has really pulled together – it’s great to see.’

Anna Aspinall, 36, from Whaley Bridge, said she and others had been called to help place sandbags around the dam, but were sent away after structural engineers advised ‘that the wall is at high risk of failing’.

‘We have had significant rainfall over the past few days resulting in the overflow of the reservoir, which is very rarely breached, being completely flooded over,’ she said. 

‘The result is that the overflow this morning has undermining damage and there is a big risk of the village being flooded out. 

‘Residents are currently being evacuated along with businesses. We are praying (the dam wall) holds whilst the Canal and River Trust try to drain the water from the reservoir. I live at the top of a hill but am very involved in community life, so want to help where I can.’ 

Chapel-en-le-Frith High School was hastily converted into a reception centre for hundreds of residents from Whaley Bridge and a command centre for the police operation as the mass evacuation got under way.

Squads of police officers arrived, with dozens of police Land Rovers and vans arriving and leaving the car park and officers checking equipment in the boots of their vehicles, as locals began to appear with suitcases heading for a sports centre hall where those who could not be housed by friends or family spent the night.

Paul Nash and Janet Williams, a couple from Whaley Bridge, had just arrived at the centre after being told to evacuate at around 1pm yesterday.  

Mr Nash said: ‘The River Goyt is actually behind us, normally it’s 20ft down from our back garden but last night it raised up to nearly 3ft from coming over. We went to work as normal.

‘Then we found out we needed to evacuate so we’ve been back home, got the cat, got what we needed to and that’s as far as we know at the moment. Bit surprised to be honest, never thought it would happen. 

‘Not sure whether this dam is going to go or not, it’s a bit concerning. At the moment there’s no updates really, no-one knows anything, so we are in the dark really, we’ve not been told we can go back.

‘If the whole dam goes, it’s going to cause absolute chaos. Probably the village will go, because it goes straight through. The River Goyt goes straight through the village centre.

‘They’ve not said when we can go back, we have got to stay away. Everything is in the house we’ve worked for, worked hard for, some things can’t ever be replaced.

‘Obviously the experts are telling us it might go, there’s still a chance it might not. No-one knows when we can go back. 

‘We’ve come down here to check in because they’ve told us if we check in, there’s no chance of them coming to knock the door down to check we are not still there.’

Derbyshire Police yesterday said it was unclear how long the evacuation of Whaley Bridge would last. 

The force tweeted: ‘Please make alternate arrangements to stay with friends/family, ensure that pets and medication that may be needed for a number of days are taken. 

‘If people do not have somewhere to go then they will be accommodated, however there is limited capacity to do so. If you are unable to leave your own home and require assistance, please contact 101 and ask for the police.’ 

The Environment Agency yesterday issued a severe flood warning, suggesting a danger to life, covering the River Goyt at Whaley Bridge. 

It states that the river could ‘rise rapidly’ due to water rushing in from the reservoir. 

As a helicopter hovered above the village, police were going door to door in Whaley Bridge to get everyone out. Going the other way were teams of council workers and mountain rescue vehicles heading into the village.

Dragging a suitcase up the deserted high street, local David Holt said: ‘Police are knocking on, evacuating everyone within risk of that dam wall breaking. If it’s going to go, it’s going to go straight through the village. 

‘Police are asking you to gather some belongings, leave your house in a secure condition and go to a local school. We’ve taken an elderly neighbour to a friend’s house and are heading to the school now.’

Author Hanna Sillitoe lives in Buxworth, downstream from Whaley Bridge, in a hamlet called Waterside. She has not been evacuated yet. She said: ‘The river had massively come up yesterday, almost to the house. 

‘But it had receded again this morning, so we thought the rains had calmed and everything had got better. But then there were fish in the garden and a lot of damage – the fences were down, trees were down, they’d been dragged down by the river.

‘The river is still flowing at a fast pace but nowhere near what it was like yesterday. The worry is if that dam goes it feeds the river, which is not built to take that level of water. So, I am moving all the important stuff upstairs.’

Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service said it had a ‘large number’ of vehicles at Toddbrook Reservoir as efforts continued to prevent the dam from bursting.

Matt Forrest, lives just six feet uphill from the reservoir and has watched the chaos unfold in his home town. 

The designer said: ‘We live about six feet up from the reservoir so we have managed to dodge being evacuated but only just. 

‘The rest of the entire town has had to leave. I’ve never seen anything like it, it’s the worst flooding in living memory in the village.’

Trauma nurse Philomena Smith, 53, lives on a road above the reservoir. 

She said: ‘Many Whaley Bridge residents who were on the bridge yesterday looking over the dam said they have lived here all their lives and never seen anything like this.

‘If the dam overflows it will join the River Goyt and be a disaster. Even last night many houses had started to place sandbags up against their doors.

‘Today the bridge is now closed and the concrete has broken away – the whole village has been evacuated and Whaley Bridge is completely closed off due to the high risk of the dam collapsing. My husband is working in Buxton but may not be able to get home tonight.’

A nearby tourist attraction to Whaley Bridge is the Ladybower Reservoir and the rarely seen abandoned village of Derwent which was flooded in the 1940s to make way for the site. 

Severe flooding in South Yorkshire in 2007 sparked the evacuation of roughly 700 people around Ulley Reservoir, near Rotherham, over fears its walls could burst due to unprecedented rain and apparent ‘areas of weakness’. 

Forecaster Luke Miall said showers in the area had eased overnight, though there was a possibility of rain later in the day. 

He added: ‘There is still a risk of showers breaking out in the afternoon, but it’s a predominantly dry picture for Friday.’ Sporadic rain was also likely in north west Scotland and south west England. 

With a population of 6,500, the picturesque location of Whaley Bridge is normally a bustling town that attracts hoardes of tourists looking to enjoy to the beauty of the Peak District.

But this quaint area of Derbyshire was strangely quiet today, save for the noise of an RAF Chinook helicopter delivering sandbags to try to avert disaster at the Toddbrook Reservoir dam feared to be on the verge of collapse. 

Some 1,000 residents have now been evacuated by police over concerns their area could be deluged, although 40-year-old resident Hanna Sillitoe ignored the calls to leave and described the atmosphere in the area as ‘eerie’.

She filmed the village while out running early this morning – sharing a video to Twitter which shows its streets empty and silent. She said: ‘It feels eerie here, because in every other sense it’s a completely ordinary Friday.

‘The weather is beautiful, the sun is shining… and then a great big Chinook flies over the house and the stark reality of what’s happening upstream hits us again.’

The author said she heard the RAF Chinook sent to help emergency efforts in stabilising the dam at Toddbrook with sandbags flying overhead at 5am – later running along the canal, her usual jogging route, to investigate.

Despite expecting cordons, Ms Sillitoe – who lives about a mile away but downstream from the village – said there were none and she did not have to turn back, continuing on to Whaley Bridge.

Ms Sillitoe said she and other residents of her hamlet were given ‘conflicting advice’, with police advising evacuation but Government flood warning information suggesting they were safe.

‘We have livestock and horses here,’ she said. Our personal decision at present is to stay. If the dam goes, my cottage is in the firing line down river – we already had bad floods on Wednesday but the water has since subsided. What will be will be.’

Ms Sillitoe added her ‘thoughts are with those directly under the dam’.

Brian Stanway, whose fireplace and woodburner business is in the middle of Whaley Bridge, said he has ‘no time frame whatsoever’ about when he will be able to return to open the business.

‘We just hope that everyone’s safe, that’s the main thing, and that people have their homes to go back to,’ he said. It’s a lovely town with a great local community and local spirit.’

Asked whether he ever had fears about the dam, Mr Stanway said: ‘It’s always been on my mind a little bit because of the repairs that were done about 30 years ago. It has crossed my mind. But it looks so solid.’

Water flowing into Toddbrook was ‘reduced considerably’ overnight but engineers remain ‘very concerned’ about the integrity of the damaged 180-year-old structure, which contains around 1.3 million tonnes of water.

Hundreds of people have been evacuated from Whaley Bridge over fears it could rupture and flood their homes. 

An RAF Chinook and firefighters using high-volume pumps appear to have partly stabilised the ‘unprecedented, fast-moving, emergency situation’ caused by heavy rain.

The Chinook has been dropping one-ton sandbags on to the damaged area to bolster the structure. Improving weather and work on the inflows means the amount of water entering the reservoir has also reduced. 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said ‘first responders, engineers and RAF crews are working around the clock to fix the dam’ and he has ordered a meeting of the Cobra emergency committee to discuss the situation.  

The reservoir is on the north-west edge of the Peak District National Park and was built in 1831, according to experts, although the Environment Agency record it as being built in 1840-41.

According to a 2011 Environment Agency report on national dam incidents, Toddbrook ‘has a history of leakage’.

A 600-year-old stately home made famous by Colin Firth’s Pride and Prejudice walk out of a lake in soaking wet clothes was evacuated after ‘devastating’ flooding swept away parts of its historic gardens and threatened ‘priceless’ artefacts. 

Lyme Park, near Stockport, in Cheshire, was evacuated on Wednesday afternoon after days of rain across the region which saw an Royal Air Force Chinook helicopter drafted in today to stop a reservoir collapsing in nearby Whaley Bridge.

Staff at the historic grade-II listed home, which doubled as love interest Mr Darcy’s home Pemberley in the BBC’s 1995 adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel, worked through the night to save its antiques and unique interiors, including the 15th Century Sarum Missal, said to be the Trust’s most treasured book. 

The 17-acre gardens, which host the reflection lake – where Firth’s Mr Darcy emerged from the water in front of Jennifer Ehle’s Elizabeth Bennett while wearing a soaking wet shirt – bore some of the worst damage, the Manchester Evening News reported. 

Paths, fences and numerous areas of planting were washed away by the force of the waters, with some plants carried nearly a quarter of a mile. 

The lake itself, which was pictured after it had overflowed, was also damaged.  

A video filmed yesterday showed a torrent of brown water cascading down the main stone steps and flooding the vast lawns either side. 

Some visitors had to be rescued by the home’s rangers after becoming separated from their cars by floodwaters, it was reported.  

The home was originally built as a hunting lodge and was later transformed into a family home. 

It has undergone extensive alterations since being built in the 1400s and has been owned by the same family, the Leghs, for nearly 600 years. 

Artefacts on display at the home include the Mortlake tapestries, the finest clock collection in the National Trust, and the Sarum Missal.   

The book, commonplace in early modern England, is a handwritten text of the Catholic mass.

The version at Lyme House, printed in 1487 by William Caxton in Paris, is the only surviving copy and is largely intact.    

National Trust staff and conservation specialists were at the home yesterday assessing the extent of the damage to buildings, paths and roads. 

Car parks and some of the grounds were still underwater yesterday. 

Inside the home, work started on cleaning up debris and mud left by the water.

Lyme Park’s lead ranger told the Manchester Evening News after the home was closed to the public that he was ‘unable’ to say when it might reopen. 

He said there was ‘widespread and extensive’ damage to paths and roads around the home, especially around streams and ponds which overflowed.  

‘We’ve taken the decision to remain closed to ensure we don’t put any members of the public at risk, and so that we can start the repair work,’ he said. 

‘It’s devastating when we see the place we work so hard to look after impacted in this way.’  

Today, the Royal Air Force were forced to intervene with a Chinook helicopter to try to stop Toddbrook reservoir, in Derbyshire, from collapsing after it was ‘badly’ damaged during heavy rain and police urged up to 6,500 inhabitants in the nearby town of Whaley Bridge to immediately flee.  

Residents spent the night away from their homes during what police described as ‘an unprecedented, fast-moving, emergency situation’ caused by five days of downpours.

Emergency service workers were scrambling to save the 19th century dam which could be set to burst any minute, with teams laying sandbags to prevent the water breaking through and wiping out the picturesque town.

Officers spent hours going door-to-door around homes in the Derbyshire village, as residents fled the area in case the 1.3million tonnes of water contained in the huge Georgian-era Toddbrook Reservoir starts to escape.

The Environment Agency issued a severe ‘danger to life’ flood warning after 82.8mm (3in) of rain fell on the hills above Whaley Bridge in 48 hours up to yesterday afternoon, the equivalent of a month’s worth of rain.

The reservoir, which contains 1.3 million tonnes of water, has seen ‘extensive’ damage from flooding including a huge hole in the dam wall – with the helicopter sent from RAF Odiham in Hampshire to assist emergency efforts. 

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said the Chinook would ‘drop one-ton bags of aggregate – a mixture of sand, gravel and stone – into Todd Brook. This is intended to stem the flow of water into the reservoir.’

Videos shared by Shirebrook Fire Station showed the Chinook laden with the aggregate as it flew above the area and hovered above the the dam wall. Police said 400 tonnes of aggregate would be brought by the RAF.  

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