UPTON was holding its breath this week with flood water at its highest since 1947 and the prospect of more water from the north held back by high tides to the south.

As the water swept through abandoned homes, their owners waited in hotels and rented rooms to count the cost.

At Bury End Farm, the flood destroyed £10,000 worth of maize and devastated grassland, forcing farmer Nick Allen to consider selling his cattle. The maize crop, lost for the third year running, was intended as winter feed for his 160-strong herd, including calves, heifers, milking cows and beef cattle.

"It would cost me more to buy in forage for the cattle than they are worth. We'll just keep a milking herd of 50 or 60 cows and sell the rest," said Mr Allen.

"There's nothing we can do until the spring. We can't take machines on the land after the flood and we can't re-seed the grass until we're sure it won't flood again."

The animals were sheltered in barns on the highest point of the 145-acre farm, where 130 acres were under up to 9ft of water this week.

Mr Allen said sluice gates that normally prevent the River Severn from flooding a surface water drain were causing excess water to back up, so that it was rising faster behind the flood defences than on the Severn itself.

On Thursday morning, the water was just inches away from his living room, at the top of the cellar steps.

Elsewhere in Upton, people found ingenious ways of coping with the flood, including Meals on Wheels organiser Annie Surman, helped by her husband, Peter. They brought hot meals prepared at Beechwood into town by tractor along the flooded Ryall road.

Down river at Uckinghall, Mrs Surman even delivered a meal to one elderly woman by boat.

It belonged to another resident, Pete Gallagher, who said: "Three houses have water in the ground floor and the lane down to the river is 5ft deep.

"Most of the houses down there are above the water but people living there need boats to get out."

Car drivers wanting to get into Upton from east of the river faced a long drive via the Mythe Bridge at Tewkesbury, but pedestrians were being ferried across Upton bridge in Army trucks, courtesy of Worcester Territorial Army's 214 Battery.

Malvern weather watcher Frank Hill said Malvern had the equivalent of two months' rain, or 5 inches, in the past two weeks. He said the town may have had the highest rainfall in the country on Monday when 38mm, or 1 inches, fell in in 24 hours.

"The last time we had such a prolonged spell of rain was in 1960," he said.