Village church bells to ring flood warning

Villagers in Devon are set to benefit from having the UK's first church bell flood warning service.

The 18th century bells at St Paul's Church in Starcross have been restored thanks to a £10,000 grant from the Environment Agency (EA), and additional money raised by the community could mean they now ring out an SOS peal in the event of a flood.

The contingency method, suggested by the Flood Action Group and local wardens, will only be used if the EA's traditional electronic method of warning, and all other forms of communication, have failed.

Churchwarden Tim Miles told Premier: "I shall be ringing the bells at a set pattern of rings just to alert them to look at their mobile phones, look at the news, listen to the radio to find out what is going on."

Church bells have a long tradition of warning of hazards and were set to be used in the event of a German invasion during the Second World War.

Jane Fletcher-Peters, flood resilience officer at the EA, said: "Starcross is very much a boating community so it made sense that if the church bells were sounded to warn of flood, ringers would adopt an SOS peal familiar to residents."

Tim Miles told Premier: "We've got the two bells and I suspect we will do a certain number of rings on one bell, a certain number of rings on the other bell continuously for as long as it takes, basically."

He said everybody has worked together on the project: "It's been such a good partnership between the Environment Agency, the church, the parish council and the community itself."

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