Page last updated at 05:55 GMT, Thursday, 26 June 2008 06:55 UK

Spirits rise as village dries out

By Mario Cacciottolo
BBC News

Two men in a dinghy
Toll Bar was so badly flooded that its streets had to be navigated by boat

Toll Bar, near Doncaster, South Yorkshire has spent the past year coming to terms with floods that submerged most of its homes. So how has the village fixed residents' hearts and minds as well as bricks and mortar?

Toll Bar was a place badly wounded when the merciless flood waters came in June 2007 - but one year on, it appears almost to have healed.

It is now unrecognisable from the scene when waters lapped at first floor windows and ruined whatever possessions were not hauled up out of the flood's murky reach.

Almost all of its displaced families are back in their homes and life is returning to normal.

There are some houses which remain empty but the council has worked long and hard to get residents in.

There are lots of extended families here, so you'll never, ever break that. You could see it like a big family
John Jackson

Here, in a place with no pub and only a handful of businesses selling either cars or spare parts for them, the post office and grocery store is a central hub.

Postmaster John Jackson, 58, proclaimed himself the "king of Toll Bar" when he towed Prince Charles around the waterlogged town at the height of last summer's floods. These days he is in a more humble mood.

Clubbing together

He says the disaster has boosted village life.

"There are lots of extended families here, so you'll never, ever break that. You could see it like a big family," he says.

Plenty has been done to keep the fabric of the village together, social groups have sprung up and various clubs are being run from the temporary buildings housing Toll Bar Primary School including salsa, science, computer and art clubs.

John Jackson
John Jackson's post office is a focal point for the Toll Bar community

The Toll Bar Central Club, usually the space for youth clubs, fitness clubs and a social space, was renovated by the BBC's DIY SOS programme, ensuring the community would continue to have a venue where it could meet.

And where families have been living in 50 temporary caravans on one large site, residents say the community spirit has been nurtured and even flourished.

Up the road from the post office, Parker's Motorist Discount shop looks sparkling inside, following almost a year of hard graft by its owners.

"This is the first week we've been open since the floods," explains Graham Parker, 54, who runs the place with his 79-year-old father Frank.

He talks about how hard they had to labour alone to get the shop refurbished.

Frank and Graham Parker
Frank and Graham Parker are proud to have re-opened their shop

He brings out a book called Toll Bar-on-Sea, which was given to every household in the community and contains the stories of the flood from many of the villagers.

There are also images of the submerged streets, and people sat in living rooms filled with murky water.

Frank brings out plaques and letters of thanks they received from Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service and the Salvation Army.

They were awarded because, despite their shop being flooded and suffering 98,000 worth of damage, they spent days helping the emergency services battle the elements.

Their own homes narrowly avoiding being flooded and they allowed their kitchens and bathrooms to be used by those trying to help the other villagers.

"We've got some really good, hard working folk living here," says Frank. "They have put some hard work into this village and got it back on its feet.

"We've just had to grin and bear it. We're alive." He holds out his arms: "We've not lost our hands."

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