Flood ruins thousands of Morpeth library books.
Published Date: 11 September 2008. By HAYLEY REVELL.
PUBLIC buildings did not escape the deluge as floodwaters swamped Morpeth.
About 25,000 items have been damaged in Morpeth Library, with the fate of some archives not yet known.
The centre, which usually attracts 2,000 visitors each week, has lost more than 60 per cent of its stock in the flood and staff have still not been able to fully access the building to check on certain archives, including back copies of the 'Morpeth Herald'.
Northumberland County Council's Acting Divisional Director for Libraries and Archives Marguerite Gracey said: "We have limited access at the minute so we don't know exactly what has and what hasn't been damaged.
"Most of our archive materials would have been upstairs so it is difficult to say — we have to get in first and see what's there."
However, she said every effort is being made to keep library services running in the town.
"The libraries service has a key role to play in improving people's social and mental well being — for some, a trip to the library might be the only time of day they can leave the house," she said.
"We are devastated that Morpeth Library has been forced to close and we will be working tirelessly to get the facility restored as quickly as possible.
"In the meantime we will be providing a mobile library as a temporary measure near the site."
Anyone who would like to return books can take them to libraries in Ashington, Bedlington, Cramlington, Rothbury and Ponteland.
The Volunteer Housebound Service, which operates out of Morpeth Library to deliver books, CDs, DVDs and other items to those who can't access facilities, has also been affected, but will be up and running again as soon as possible.
Meanwhile, 20 library staff will be relocated to other sites and alternative accommodation is being sought for the community and outreach teams.
n( u2002 Treasures at Morpeth Chantry and Bagpipe Museum were only just salvaged from the flood thanks to quick-thinking volunteers.
Valuables such as the Cocks' collection of bagpipes and Turner's Herbal were among the first items to be taken to safety, but there was a race against time to rescue other assets as the waters started to rise.
One of the volunteers helping Bagpipe Museum Curator Ann Moore to save the collections was Kim Bibby-Wilson.
She said: "There was a number of people from the piping fraternity who were helping to sort and pack things up. The important thing on Saturday was to get everything out of the danger zone, but the museum side was the priority, trying to get everything packaged and out to other Council premises.
"We did as much as we could, but once the water started coming in on Saturday afternoon it was a rescue operation against time and eventually we had to evacuate, we couldn't stay any longer.
"The problem is that we have to keep the environmental conditions suitable for the artefacts and the humidity in the Chantry was right up with the flood.
The sooner things could be taken out of the building the better.
"We have used the right sort of museum standard boxes in many cases, but some items will have to be re-packed and we're getting help from Tyne and Wear Museums.
"We don't know how long it is going to be before the building is in a suitable state for the museum to go back there."
The Grade I Listed Building suffered damage to plastering, wiring, electrics, computer systems, carpets and fixtures and fittings.
And the disruption will affect 65 stallholders from the craft centre, 40 food providers, soap manufacturers and local musicians, who sell CDs from the venue.
Manager Dawn Goodwill-Evans said: "We managed to salvage a lot of the stock that was low-lying so the damage to the stallholders is minimal, apart from foodstuff that has been contaminated.
"It will be distressing to them though because there will be a loss of income from not being able to trade, especially coming up to Christmas, which is the busiest time.
"It will also affect the tourism side because we had 145,000 visitors through the door last year. Now we might not get the day visitors to Morpeth so it is going to have a big impact, especially on the local economy.
"We may look for temporary premises to retail from because our Tourist Information Centre in particular is a service that is used by many people. We need to get that up and running again as soon as possible."
n(u2002Another flood casualty was Morpeth Health Centre in Gas House Lane, which houses a GP practice, community nursing and other services.
The facility has been forced to close and routine appointments were cancelled this week.
Urgent clinics are running from the Greystoke Surgery in King's Avenue and arrangements are being made to relocate the GP practice to Morpeth Cottage Hospital.
Patients can contact the surgery on 01670 513657, or the Greystoke practice on 01670 511393. For repeat prescriptions this week they should call 07598 974726, between 11am and 1.30pm.
And for an urgent GP appointment outside normal surgery hours call Northern Doctors Urgent Care on 0845 608 0320.
People with podiatry appointments will be contacted.
Tuesday's breast feeding support group and the child health clinics next Wednesday and Thursday have been moved to Morpeth Children's Centre and from Thursday the family planning clinic will run from Morpeth Cottage Hospital.
Home visits by district nurses will continue as normal, but for information on treatment room appointments and all other enquiries telephone 01670 519519.
Riverside Leisure Centre has also been closed until further notice following damage from flooding.
Leisure Connection, along with its contractors and Castle Morpeth Council, is hoping to get the facility re-opened as soon as possible.