THE Environment Agency boss paid a secret visit to Hampshire yesterday to see how the county fought the floods.

Lord Smith toured Romsey and Winchester to meet staff and see the measures that saved hundreds of homes from the deluge.

In Romsey he visited the Greatbridge Road area, visited the Romsey incident room and in Winchester he is believed to have seen the St Bede School/Park Avenue/Water Lane area.

He also saw the innovative steps taken upstream to create water storage areas by impeding the flow at four places between Easton and Martyr Worthy and met local city councillor Kim Gottlieb.

Several hundred one-tonne bags filled with gravel have been lowered by the Royal Engineers.

An agency spokesman said the media was not told about the visit.

He said: “Lord Smith was in the area meeting staff and thanking them for their hard work. We didn’t invite any press as it was a low-key event. He wanted to spend time with staff rather than getting sucked into the media.”

Lord Smith has borne the brunt of national media criticism of the handling of the floods in the Somerset levels area.