A FORMER nurse who went wassailing to celebrate her birthday drowned in a water-filled drainage ditch behind a marquee on a cider farm in Somerset.

Elaine Williams was almost three times the legal drink drive limit when she died in the rhyne after she went to smoke a cigarette.

An inquest heard that the 54-year-old, of Halesleigh Road, Bridgwater, had been "drinking at a local traditional Somerset event and had gone missing for an hour".

She was discovered face down in the ditch at Rich's Farm, Watchfield, Highbridge, and was declared dead by an ambulance crew on the night of January 18.

The inquest in Taunton heard from her sister Helena Ibbetson, who said Elaine trained as a nurse at St Thomas' Hospital, London, where she "loved nursing and the social side".

She later married but when that broke down alcohol became an issue, although Elaine was "always kind and caring" and remained "positive and strong".

Helena said they had been to the wassail to celebrate their birthdays.

She added that Elaine went along a dark, unlit park for a smoke and that there was no fencing around the ditch where she was later found.

The inquest was told that earlier Elaine was "very intoxicated and had fallen asleep in a chair in the marque".

Home Office pathologist Dr Russell Delaney said she died from drowning.

Toxicology tests revealed 229mg of alcohol in her blood - the top limit for driving is 80mg.

Dr Delaney said the effect of that amount of alcohol meant she was unable to get out.

Senior Somerset coroner Tony Williams recorded an accidental death conclusion.