FLOODED-out resident of Beales Corner Gillian Holland had also engaged Mr Blair's attention on the bridge. She talked to him for well over a minute in full view of TV cameras.

She told him flood victims had learned to cope with such disasters but the hospital problem would not recede like the river and was more important.

As hospital protesters shouted "what about our hospital?" Mr Blair replied: "I hear you. I hear you".

One warned him not to fall in the river "because we have no hospital." Another sceptic quipped as he made his way through the crush: "There he goes, walking on water."

Flood victim Dave Griffiths, of Dog Lane, was "disappointed" however he did not get the chance to show Mr Blair the flooding in his cottage as had been originally arranged.

He had built shelving on which to stack furniture up to 48 inches above the ground. It worked in the 1998 floods but was no good this time when the water rose to 54 inches in the house.

Mr Griffiths said: "I have a lot of sympathy with the hospital campaign. I was approached to hold the banner. But I would have liked 10 minutes as a flood victim. I think the visit was badly managed because we could have all had a chance to have our say."

Mr Griffiths, who has lived at Dog lane for 10 years, said he was planning better ways to protect his house next time.

"I love this place and I am going to stay," he added.