THERE was a time when after any persistent rain, Acomb was the first community in Tynedale to be hit by flooding.

Normally placid streams became tempestuous torrents, and there were as many sandbags as milk bottles on doorsteps.

On one occasion, a wall had to be knocked down to allow the raging waters of the Red Burn to escape before it entered properties.

But during the ceaseless rain of December and early January, while the fields around the village became instant lakes, there was little flooding in the village itself.

And that had a lot to do with the efforts of the recently formed volunteer flood wardens, who have established firm links with the Environment Agency to help protect the community.

They act as a link between the Environment Agency and the community as the eyes and ears on the ground getting vital information out.

A team of 12 checks water levels, report blockages and monitor weather forecasts to be a step ahead of a flood.

They have developed a community flood plan –endorsed by Acomb Parish Council – with key contacts and responsibilities to carry out in the event a flash flood.

Their in-depth knowledge of the community means they know where the flashpoints are and can set up a refuge centre and alert the local school.

Properties in Acomb were flooded in both 2008 and 2012 when both the Red Burn and Birky Burn overtopped.

In 2013 though the newly formed community group – Action4Acomb – started working with the Environment Agency to establish the team of flood wardens.

Each of the 12 wardens was given the responsibility of one of the four identified zoned areas at risk of flooding in the village. They even filled sandbags and put them in boxes.

Their flood plan is reviewed every year and again after a flood event.

As well as having a plan in place they also work with other organisations to look for longer-term solutions to flooding in the village – preventing it is an equally important role for the group.

They provide vital information to the Environment Agency, such as river levels, photographs, and other practical and technical information.

Lead warden Jim Wright, said: “Our role also means we try to get the community involved. We need people to actively report information, like blocked trash screens and drains, and to understand the reason we have flood wardens and need a flood plan.

“It’s about communities taking responsibility and understanding that we can be prepared as best we can.

“We’ve put a lot of effort in to get to this stage – but it’s worth it!”

Acomb Parish Council chairman Charles Enderby has written to the Environment Agency thanking staff for the “tremendous assistance” they had given over a sustained period of appalling weather conditions.

The Environment Agency is urging other communities to follow Acomb’s lead, as flood wardens are particularly valuable in areas where there is currently no flood warning service available..

Interested parties can contact the Northumberland, Durham and Tees Environment Agency flood resilience team on (0191) 2034211.