Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Hell for Families as They Are Evacuated; People Forced out of Homes by Landslide

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Hell for Families as They Are Evacuated; People Forced out of Homes by Landslide

Article excerpt

Byline: Dave Black

FIVE people have been forced out of their homes just days before Christmas amid fears that a landslide could send the properties plunging into a Northumberland river.

They were evacuated from the three farm cottages next to the River Coquet after the severe weather conditions resulted in a large part of the 80ft riverbank collapsing into the water below.

Over the last two years, erosion has seen about 40ft of the land between the river and the cottages disappear, including the car parking area.

Last week a more dramatic landslip left their shared septic tank hanging over the edge, and sparked the immediate evacuation plan because of fears for the occupants' safety.

It has meant a major change of Christmas plans for blacksmith John Hallowell, 50, and his wife Margaret, 57, a retired teacher, who have lived at High Park Farm Cottages near Felton for six years.

They have had to move in with John's mother Ruth, 87, who lives in Longhirst near Morpeth, taking their grand piano with them. They also had to move their 41 chickens using a tractor and trailer.

John and Margaret, another couple and a single farmworker have all been evacuated from the cottages, which are on a tenanted farm owned by the Duke of Northumberland.

The Duke's business wing now plans to demolish the properties and rebuild them about 150 metres away from the crumbling riverbank - along with a new access lane to replace the one which is likely to disappear into the Coquet. John and Margaret were expecting to spend Christmas in the cottage with their daughter Kate, 26, who is returning from her job in Zurich, and 21-year-old twins Eva and Iain, who are at university.

But last week's dramatic developments mean they will be having Christmas lunch at a local restaurant, with their long-term future uncertain.

John said: "It has been absolutely hellish. We just came back from holiday on December 2 and soon after we were faced with all this. …

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