Six months of wet weather and floods see farmers under financial and mental strain across the West Country

Many farmers across our region are struggling both financially and mentally due to the rain that's fallen this winter.

The limited respite from the wet weather for around six months is making some lives a misery, and has created a challenging winter.

It's been so bad, the Environment Agency say it has issued twice as many flood warnings than for the whole of 2019, while Met Office statistics say this February it was the wettest on record.

Our weather presenter Charlie Powell has been looking at what happened to the West Country's weather in February.

While our reporters Bob Cruwys and Ken Goodwin have been out in Devon and Gloucestershire respectively, talking to farmers about how the weather has affected their business.

You don't have to go far to find the floodwater on Ben Perry's farm. It's at the bottom of his garden.

"It's not up to 2007 levels yet" he tells me, adding with a sigh "...thank goodness".

Ben's family farm is at Bushley, near Tewkesbury. It doesn't make a huge amount of money. In fact Ben needs a second job as a lecturer at Hartpury College three days a week just to make ends meet.

But having his land covered in floodwater up to eight feet deep for so long is getting him down.

'It's like groundhog day" he says, referring to looking at the same flooded fields every morning.

Farmers say that the floods mean hundreds of acres of land are out of action, costing them money and putting their businesses at risk.

And in some of those fields are this years seedlings. He points into the distance, though with half a mile of floodwater in front of us it's hard to tell one field from another.

"We planted oilseed rape back in September, in good conditions. Now it's been flooded four times, there's no hope for it's success any more." Another crop, literally dead in the water.

And then there's the pasture for his cattle to feed on. Mid-March, Ben would hope to turn out the cows into the fields.

But, as he says, "There's no hope of cattle going out until the pasture has had time to recover, for at least a month." That means he'll have to buy more feed for them.

Ben Perry, whose family farm is at Bushley near Tewkesbury, says they expect seasonal flooding but not on the scale it has been this year.

Ben wants the River Severn to be better maintained.

"We've got trees overhanging the river, catching debris and silt and restricting the flow. They need to dredge it"

If it carries on flooding, Ben thinks it will take its toll on farmers.

"There's serious financial pressures on us all, and it's going to be the last straw for a lot of us."

Ben wades through his flooded barn and looks out into the distance. Apart from the tops of a few hedges and trees, all he can see is water.

Mark Weekes's farm at Silverton near Exeter is looking pretty similar to the rest of the West Country at the moment - muddy and wet.

There's barely been one full week of settled, dry weather since September last year - that's six months with hardly any respite from the rain. The sheep aren't enjoying it much, and the farmers aren't either. It takes its toll financially and it affects mental health too.

Mark tells us: "The mud, and the wet, and the grey, and the poor old sheep.

"We've just finished lambing our second flock so we've got some really small lambs out there, that we've had to put out, and it's pretty soul destroying as a keeper of livestock, to go out and have to pick up poorly and dead lambs and ewes because they've succumbed to the weather."

"We've got to be very aware of mental wellbeing within farming because farming's a pretty lonely old existence and weather events like this can drag you down really badly," he added.

One of Mark's fields is so flooded ducks have taken up residence.

One of his fields is so far underwater a pair of ducks has taken up residence - it's become more like a pond than farmland.

Of course they've had much worse flooding in other parts of the country and at the National Farmers' Union conference, the new Environment Secretary George Eustice, who's from a farming family in Cornwall, was challenged over the Government's response.

He says the Government will publish a new strategy on flooding later this spring.

Mark Weekes believes farming must be part of the solution to climate change, rather than being blamed for causing it. A break from the rain would help with his day to day work though.

He said: "We need to get out and do some groundwork so we could do with a fortnight of dry weather and a bit of sunshine.

"If nothing else it would make us all feel a lot happier!"

Farmer Mark says he has lost lambs and ewes to the wet weather.