FIREFIGHTERS, villagers and shop staff came to the rescue with mops and buckets after a Hornby knitwear boutique was dramatically flooded out on the eve of its champagne opening.

Manager Annette Dixon had just arrived at the Spirit of the Andes shop with Christmas trees, and the team were busy making preparations for the following day, when floodwater began trickling through the front door.

"The staff and I frantically grabbed mops and buckets, and we got sandbags to block the door, all to no avail," said Annette. "The force and sheer volume of water was just too much.

"Every time a vehicle passed the shop, a wave would create another surge of water to come pouring in."

Floodwater covered "just about every inch of the shop", said Annette, while outside, traffic was stopped because Main Street was under "a river of water".

Annette said: "Eventually, after enough water had been pumped away, we could open the door to let the firemen in as well as locals to come and help us with the clean-up operation .

"At one point we had ten people sweeping and mopping at the same time. Four of them were firemen, who had helped move the very heavy furniture.

"After what seemed like a lifetime we finally cleared the water away and started cleaning all the floors and furniture."

"One local resident brought us a chocolate cake, which we demolished with a cuppa, only to carry on with putting all the stock from the delivery out ready for the grand opening."

Well after dark, the team finally put up their Christmas trees and switched on the lights. "We all had a group hug with tears in our eyes at the transformation which had taken place in the last few hours," Annette told the Gazette. "Despite having rolled-up trousers and mops and buckets at one point, no one ever doubted that we wouldn't be ready. We were prepared to work as long as it took to ensure the doors would open the next day."

Annette described the official champagne opening at the alpaca knitwear store as "a great success" and said the team felt proud to "welcome the happy crowds" waiting outside the door.

Richard Hartley, who bought Spirit of the Andes after it went into administration with job losses and shop closures, drove up from Stratford-upon-Avon for the occasion.

"At one point Richard exclaimed he had never seen so much enthusiasm from customers," said Annette. "He was amazed that every single person he spoke to was delighted that the shop had reopened, as during its closure they had felt an enormous loss not just to themselves but to the area."