Lake District Floods in Bowness and Coniston
Lancashire Life urges readers not to be fair weather friends of the Lake District. Roger Borrell reports
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Lake District Floods in Bowness and Coniston
‘Move away from here? It’s the most beautiful place there is - I’m not going anywhere!’ They are not the words you expect from an 86-year-old lady who has just said goodbye to council workmen who have carted away her flood-sodden carpets.
What’s more, it’s the fourth flood to hit Kathleen Coggins and her lovely little cottage at the end of Red Lion Yard in Hawkshead. But the one thing that strikes you about Kathleen and the folk in the Lakes is their indomitable spirit and their enduring good humour.
Obviously, the scenes of devastation in Cockermouth and the tragic death of a brave police officer in Workington will scar both communities for years to come.
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But elsewhere in the Lakes life goes on - and they need continued support from us all. Never let it be said we are just fair weather friends.
I travelled to the Lakes with photographer Kirsty Thompson. Naturally, the focus of attention had been in the worst-hit areas so we decided to concentrate on how people were faring the in most northerly outposts of the County Palatine.
Our first stop was Bowness, where the swans were floating on what had previously been pavement, and then onto Ambleside to see the Cowap family, originally from Cleveleys, as they took in the enormity of the damage to their hotel, the Wateredge Inn, on the northern-most tip of Windermere.
The flood water made an eerie knocking as it washed patio furniture against the windows. Then it made its inevitable entrance, gushing into the dining room, bar and kitchens causing �250,000 of structural damage and thousands more in furniture and fittings.
The hotel had more than 40 guests staying who all had to be moved out. The Cowaps had no choice but to close even though they were fully booked to New Year.
The business was run by Derek and Pam Cowap, who handed over the reins to their children Scott, Louise and Mark. ‘We’ve been here for 26 years and we’ve never seen anything like this,’ said Derek. ‘The guests included a group of Australians who’d come here to escape the heat! Fortunately, everyone took it with good humour.’
Farmer Jon Watson, at Yew Tree Farm, near Coniston, was struggling to find much to smile about after having lost around 50 of his Herdwicks to the floods. Despite regularly checking they were on high ground several were suddenly washed away when a stream altered its course.
‘I still haven’t found some - someone said they had seen one hanging from a tree,’ said John. Trees, fences and hedgerows were all ripped apart in the worst flood in living memory. Apart from the loss of livestock, his business supplying top grade lamb and beef to hotels and restaurants was also hit as roads were impassable and dining rooms shut.
Down in Coniston village the lake had risen rapidly, flooding the Bluebird Caf� and putting the boatyard under waist-deep water. Several homes were hit.
Back in Hawkshead, Sarah Campbell and Fran Berry both paid tribute to young men in the village who had worked through the night as flood water gushed up from a culvert, through paving stone and into their quaint old cottages.
Fran, a post-natal coordinator, said: ‘For a couple of days the village was cut off but the young lads were brilliant. We couldn’t get any sandbags, but we discovered there were some at Levens and they took a tractor through the floodwater to bring us supplies.
‘They took out my cooker and fridge freezer and when I went upstairs they’d even saved a bag of rubbish I’d kept for the recycling!’
The national media and broadcast organisations will quickly lose interestin the Lakeland floods, but the people who live there will remember those terrible events with a mixture of emotions - from deep sorrow to overwhelming community pride. They deserve our support.