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‘Worse than Storm Arwen’: Incredible community effort in Fettercairn to deal with aftermath of severe weather

Fallen trees and power outages have caused disruption in the Fettercairn area
Fallen trees and power outages have caused disruption in the Fettercairn area

Residents in the Fettercairn area have shared how the community has pulled together in the aftermath of Storm Malik and Corrie.

The village in the south of Aberdeenshire was one of the last areas to regain power following the severe weather and many people were forced to stay in their homes due to trees blocking the roads.

With the closest welfare centre being around 20 miles away in Stonehaven, they had to rely on help from others in the community.

Community working together

Mandy Dunn, who lives on the Fettercairn Estate, has praised the keepers and forestry teams for clearing the roads of fallen trees.

She said: “We were blocked in completely by trees in the driveway and trees on the track back to home farm, so on Monday we couldn’t get into Fettercairn or Laurencekirk

“It was the keepers and forestry teams who got the roads cleared. They must have done about 10 trees by around 4pm on Monday, which allowed everybody access.

“One of the keepers has a tree resting against his house and another through the roof of his workshop and he was still out there clearing the trees so emergency services and people could get through.”

The keepers and forestry teams cleared the trees in the area. Supplied by Mandy Dunn.

Many households throughout Fettercairn and the surrounding area lost power as a result of the storms.

Arlene Dickson, who lives in the outskirts of the village, shared that eight trees falling on a fibre cable left her without internet access.

She said: “Openreach were brilliant and their engineers ran over 500 metres of new fibre cable. I ended up cooking them scones as a way to say thank you.

“Fettercairn has a really good community and they all come together to help after the storms. Some homes have got their electricity back and they’re welcoming people in to use showers and power.

“This has definitely hit us harder than Storm Arwen, with the devastation in the trees and the power outages. It’s been much worse.”

Going ‘above and beyond’

Trees were blocking the roads around Fettercairn. Supplied by Mandy Dunn.

Meanwhile, the residents at the Queen Elizabeth Court sheltered housing complex were left with no heating or lighting from Sunday evening until Wednesday afternoon.

People who live nearby and the wardens at the sheltered housing have come together to offer support to those who live there – many of whom are housebound.

Karen Masson, from Aberdeen, shared how the residents, including her father and step-mother, have had to rely on this support.

She said: “A generator was delivered on Monday but they were only able to heat the common area and boil a kettle. The lift was not working and there was no emergency lighting.

“The wardens were really good, they’ve both gone above and beyond to do what they can help.

“One went to Stonehaven when she wasn’t even on duty to get curry meals for them all. The local shop was really helpful, heating up water and food with their generator, they were helping everybody.

“And someone from Edzell made a big pot of soup and brought that round to the residents on Monday night.”

Vulnerable residents left without power

Queen Elizabeth Court in Fettercairn. Photo by Darrell Benns/DCT Media.

However, there have been complaints about the response from Castlehill Housing Association when the storms hit.

Mrs Masson continued: “My dad is almost 80 and has dementia, he’s classed as being housebound so he can’t get about anymore. They live in the upstairs flat and at one point they had no way of getting down to the common area.

“They had no heating or lighting and I didn’t find out about any of it until I saw posts on social media. I was really, really angry that nobody from Castlehill got in touch with me to tell me about these issues.

“Finding out through social media was really shocking. If they had made contact with relatives, people would have been able to help out.

“This happened at the end of November and they were without power for days and we were assured they wouldn’t be left in that situation again.”

‘Plans should be in place’

Ms Dickson is a personal assistant to one of the residents at the sheltered housing and said Castlehill’s response to the storm aftermath had been an “absolute disgrace”.

She said: “She had a fall last night and ended up lying on the floor all night until a carer found her this morning. Luckily she’s ok, but it could have ended so much worse

“These are people’s lives and they didn’t have basic needs. I know it’s exceptional circumstances things could have been done sooner.

“The residents have various needs, including mobility issues, COPD, dementia and Alzheimer’s. Their emergency lighting is meant to stay on for eight hours but it only stayed on for 20 minutes, so these vulnerable residents were left in the pitch dark.

“Castlehill say they’ve done everything they can but it’s been an absolute disgrace. They were hit with Arwen as well so you’d think contingency plans would be in place.”

The residents at Queen Elizabeth Court were without power for three nights. Photo by Darrell Benns/DCT Media.

A spokesman for Castlehill Housing Association said: “We have had staff on site every day since the storm hit, checking tenants welfare, providing food and hot drinks and ensuring people can access the SSE alternative accommodation scheme, if required.

“Castlehill staff have been collecting and delivering food from the welfare van in Stonehaven, as well as providing cooked food themselves. We have had a generator operating at the scheme that is providing heat and light to the common room as well as power to allow heating food.

“Some of the initial difficulties were around local roads being blocked and advice not to travel, but we have been on-site to offer a range of assistance as soon as it could be safely done.”

Impact on local business

One of the local business that was impacted by the storm weather was Westerton Farmers, around five miles from Fettercairn.

The family-run farm, owned by Fiona and David Gammie, sells produce grown onsite through the Spud Hut and Farm to Table shop.

During the storms, the Spud Hut was damaged and the farm’s two 50 metre polytunnels were “completely destroyed”.

The two polytunnels have been “completely destroyed” following the storms. Supplied by Westerton Farmers.

General manager Ross Adamson said: “The Spud Hut was set up in 2017 and when things expanded and grew, the bigger Spud Hut was opened.

“It was taken out by Storm Arwen, so the original was reinstated, but now the wind has taken that out as well.

“We’ve been cleaning up the produce in there. Some root vegetables were alright, but we also had eggs and jars from other suppliers and some of those were obviously damaged.”

The Spud Hut will be closed until further notice. Supplied by Westerton Farmers.

‘A lot to deal with’

The “biggest hit” for the Westerton Farmers team was the loss of their polytunnels where they grow produce for their farms shops and the local community.

Mr Adamson continued: “There was a red warning back in November, but for us the last couple of days have been a lot worse. Storm Arwen took out half of one of our polytunnels, but this weekend has flattened both of them – they’re both completely destroyed.

The steading roof was damaged during the storms. Supplied by Westerton Farmers.

“That’s the biggest hit for us, we’ll have to see what to do from here. A lot of roofing has come away as well, it’s the most debris I’ve ever seen. The more times these extreme weather events happen, the more you think about what is the best thing to do.

“To be hit again in such a short time frame is a lot to deal with, but the Spud Hut will return.”