Fears that future flooding could see graves washed down a river has prompted angry concerns from one village councillor.

Seaton and Allerdale councillor Joe Sandwith, whose grandfather is buried in the historic St Peter’s church graveyard at Camerton, brought the problem up at a parish meeting.

He said work by Leconfield Estates was banking the Clifton side of the river, with thousands of tonnes of backfill forcing the water to come straight at it at a right angle to the church. He added: “The river has come up four or five foot. It’s certainly a frightening ongoing saga.

“I feel we can’t just sit and watch and do nothing.”

Speaking after the meeting Coun Sandwith said: “My grandfather’s grave is 20 foot from the river and I don’t want it floating off down the river.

"One good flood the way the river is coming through the field and it will take the bottom half of the graveyard off. It will cut like a knife through butter.”

Churchwarden Rob Steele shared Mr Sandwith’s worries and was particularly concerned about flooding during the winter which could adversely affect the graveyard. He said defences that were put in to safeguard the churchyard have gradually eroded since 2010.

He said: “The river level is the lowest it’s ever been but in winter more of the defences will be taken away. There has been a gradual erosion of the defences since it was put there from the 2009 flood erosion.

"It might last a few years if we don’t get serious flooding. Since January there hasn’t been a lot of rain, the 2009 floods were in November and the 2015 floods were in December."

He added: “The river is taking a new route to the church, the old route used to go around it. If we get big floods it will eventually wash all those river defences away.”

Workington MP Mark Jenkinson said he had visited the site and shared parishioners' concerns for the church and its graveyard. He said he will be re-contacting the Environment Agency to discuss possible flooding issues.

He said: “I visited St Peter’s church in January with concerned parishioners, Coun Sandwith and some members of the parochial church council and saw the problem.

"I liaised with the EA and diocese and I share the concerns, especially if history repeats itself and we get floods like we did in 2009. I will take it back up with the Environment Agency.”

Allerdale councillors and staff visited the churchyard in January to assess the situation. A spokesman for Allerdale council said: “Allerdale councillors and staff visited the churchyard at Camerton earlier in the year to view the situation and provide any advice where we could.

"However, the management of the churchyard is the responsibility of the local diocese, and any works within or close to the river would be regulated by the Environment Agency.”

A spokesperson for The Environment Agency said they were looking into works that are ongoing in the area and added: “It is the Environment Agency’s role to ensure that any works do not increase the local flood risk and protect the environment. If any works are being undertaken to a main river bank, they would require a permit from the Environment Agency and for a full flood risk assessment to be undertaken.”

Leconfield Estates, who are doing work in the area, said: “Work is taking place on land to the east of the river in preparation for tree planting and in connection with the ongoing habitat improvement scheme. Whilst the ongoing works will not change river flow, discussions continue with the Environment Agency about possible future habitat improvement works which may hep to mitigate erosion and provide some protection for the church.”

Archdeacon Venerable Richard Pratt said they were unaware of any ongoing works and that no one had been in touch with them regarding any works, adding that their rock armour around the graveyard is still very substantial.

He said: “There is an awful lot of rock armour on the bank. There was some lost in January but it is a tiny proportion of what’s actually there. The river flow is complicated, but the rock armour is still very substantial.”