The Earl of Wessex comforted people worst hit by the floods during a tour of Sussex.

During the three-hour visit to Lewes, Uckfield and Isfield yesterday, Prince Edward spoke of the "nightmare" now facing hundreds of people and praised the community spirit as the clean-up continued.

Traders and emergency services workers told the royal visitor how the worst floods for decades raged through the county, leaving behind a trail of devastation and a bill of millions.

In Isfield, farmers invited the Prince to discuss the problems faced after their crops were destroyed and livestock killed.

Joan Williams played host to the Prince in her farmhouse for more than an hour.

Her son, Michael, said: "I thought it was funny the Queen has gone to visit the Pope and her son has come to visit my mum.

Mrs Williams said: "I was impressed by Prince Edward's knowledge of farming. He could pick up an issue straight away and talk about it extremely articulately."

The Prince told reporters: "Apart from the visible side there is the nightmare of what is going on behind the scenes - the water under the floorboards and in the foundations.

"It is very difficult to be able to offer people comfort at this stage. I can only express my deepest sympathy. The wonderful thing is the spirit of everyone. Everyone is sticking together. I just hope it continues."