SOUTH Church will never forget June last year, when even the local shop did not escape the filthy floodwaters that deluged the area.

The communities of South Church and West Auckland, near Bishop Auckland, were badly traumatised when the River Gaunless, County Durham, broke its banks and flooded dozens of homes.

Many people spent the next six months living in caravans, including 58-year-old Jean Renshaw, who said she "cried for a week" when the floodwaters claimed even her marriage licence and photographs.

Pensioners from Church View Residential Care Home, in South Church, were evacuated from the home for six months, about the same length of time it took the local shop, Ali's Store, to open again.

Cars were lost, a doctor's surgery ruined and homes damaged beyond recognition.

Wear Valley District Council was left to take care of more than half of the £160,000 bill left by the flooding.

Jean Scripts, of South Church, said: "We have two gardens which are still devastated. I couldn't face it again, a friend of mine who is 80 has moved away - she can't cope with it any more."

Many residents were angry that flood defences they had been promised nearly five years ago had never materialised.

Anne Reynold's West Auckland home was one of those flooded, and she felt it could have been avoided with defence works.

She said: "Just over four years ago, the Environment Agency told me they were putting flood defences in. It has taken some proving to show we needed them, but they are in place now."

Temporary clay banks at West Auckland and South Church have so far held back rising waters, but workers cannot finish the defences until the risk of spreading foot-and-mouth has passed, and they can return to farmland.

Permanent defences will be looked at next year, when the Environment Agency picks the best scheme.