Saturday, 28 November 2009

Still open and still BEAUTIFUL

Cumbria is most definitely open, and still absolutely beautiful. Yesterday I heard that snow had fallen on Bowfell and as I listened to the rain last night I suspected that we might wake to sights like this:
(taken later in the day)

More than a dusting on Skiddaw, Grisedale Pike and Grasmoor, and in the distance Pillar has put on its winter mantle.

This picture has a foreshortening which makes it look like Cockermouth nestles underneath Ullock Pike, it doesn't!


Skiddaw later in the day. Views like this are a wonderful antidote to claustrophobia

You don't need to be a hardened fell-walker to come to Cumbria and see sights like this, often you don't even need to leave your car to enjoy this vision. The shops are open, the majority of roads are clear and only a very small percentage of visitor accommodation has been affected by the recent floods. Perfect place for a holiday - less carbon footprint than a trip abroad and no language difficulties (although I will accept that occasionally I am still stumped by some elements of West-Cumbrian dialect but the locals are friendly and will translate for you quite happily!)

Our bridge has received its daily visit from men in hi-vis coats with a theodolite. We know it will be a while before it is open again, as one of the main bridges just outside Cockermouth it took the force of millions of gallons of water and until divers have been in to check for scouring around the foundation pillars, our route anywhere includes a couple of diversions.

Water levels have dropped considerably and in the main, the Derwent is back in its normal channel.

Friday, 27 November 2009

Flood Support Centre

"if I was flooded in Indonesia there would be no roads, no electricity, no health workers - it's not hard to keep things in perspective" - a lady whose business was completely flooded last Thursday.

"you people have been a lifesaver, hot food and you found me a pair of boots I could work in" - a man whose home was wrecked, as he put £10 in the donation box on the counter.

Helping out a few hours each day in the Support Centre (aka soup kitchen) at Christ Church in South Street is a very humbling experience, and also an exhausting one. I deliberately did not take photos of the people who are coming in for assistance, that would be intrusive, but here's where I feel like I am living at present


The Centre provides not just hot food, but is a clearing house for donated supplies and this large package brought a huge lump to most people's throats today. It was really heavy and must have cost a great deal to send.


Cumbria, and Cockermouth in particular, is a wonderful place with tough, resilient people. Many businesses are back open and now, more than ever, they need our support. If you can come here and do some Christmas Shopping you would be giving gifts to more than just your friends and relatives.

I walked through Main Street today, people are working non-stop to clear the flood debris and make progress on repairing shops and houses. Taking any pictures would have been totally inappropriate - this is how you should think of Cockermouth, and how you will see it again next year.


photo thanks to R. Hiley

The Cumbria Community Forum was set up after the Foot & Mouth crisis and know exactly how to help people in these situations. They have set up a Cumbria Flood Recovery Fund for individuals, families and voluntary groups that have suffered in the flooding.

See the Cumbria Community Foundation website for more information.


The Rotary Clubs of Cockermouth and Keswick have also launched a joint charity appeal to help people affected by the flooding who are unable to afford insurance due to having been flooded previously and have no means to repair their homes.

You can donate to this appeal using PayPal. See the Rotary Club of Keswick website.

Cheques can be sent to Rotary Clubs of Cockermouth & Keswick Flood Appeal, 26, Briar Rigg, Keswick, Cumbria, CA12 4NN.

They should be made payable to “The Rotary Club of Keswick”

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

CUMBRIA IS OPEN!

Yes we have had dreadful floods,
yes it will take a while before all the businesses in Cockermouth are up and running again

BUT, if anyone was thinking of cancelling a visit to the Lake District either in the near future or perhaps next year can I say PLEASE COME TO CUMBRIA; we are still here, we want to see our visitors and we depend upon you so very much.

It took the local economy years to recover from the Foot & Mouth debacle after the media whipped everyone into a frenzy and told them to stay away - many of us are now worried the same thing could happen again.

I drove along the A66 earlier this week and witnessed the beauty of shafts of sunlight illuminating the slopes beneath Skiddaw, the light rippling across Bass Lake, the stunning views down Newlands Valley. All the natural wonders which make this such a fabulous location are still here and the north west of the region is not devastated as some news reporters might make you think.

True, it will be a while before all the wonderful independent shops in Cockermouth are open again, but there are still hotels, B&B's and holiday cottages where you would have the warmest of welcomes.

Sorry for such a shameless plug for my adopted hometown, but there really is a worry that the media will have people believe they need to stay away for months and that is so not the case.

CUMBRIA IS OPEN!

Yes we have had dreadful floods,
yes it will take a while before all the businesses in Cockermouth are up and running again

BUT, if anyone was thinking of cancelling a visit to the Lake District either in the near future or perhaps next year can I say PLEASE COME TO CUMBRIA; we are still here, we want to see our visitors and we depend upon you so very much.

It took the local economy years to recover from the Foot & Mouth debacle after the media whipped everyone into a frenzy and told them to stay away - many of us are now worried the same thing could happen again.

I drove along the A66 earlier this week and witnessed the beauty of shafts of sunlight illuminating the slopes beneath Skiddaw, the light rippling across Bass Lake, the stunning views down Newlands Valley. All the natural wonders which make this such a fabulous location are still here and the north west of the region is not devastated as some news reporters might make you think.

True, it will be a while before all the wonderful independent shops in Cockermouth are open again, but there are still hotels, B&B's and holiday cottages where you would have the warmest of welcomes.

Sorry for such a shameless plug for my adopted hometown, but there really is a worry that the media will have people believe they need to stay away for months and that is so not the case.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

The floods as seen by some friends

Transport difficulties mean I can only share a minuscule part of these devastating floods.

Here are two links to Ann & Roger's website. The first, November Gales, covers flooding near their home, I haven't seen this although I know all the places in their photos.

This page is a summary of much of our recent weather so you can see how saturated the land has become.

and finally, if you are not completely sick of looking at water, here are pictures from further south, but still in the Lake District.
This is Sean McMahon's wonderful Striding Edge site, of "Angus and Casper" fame, and now home to Casper and Dougal. If the phrase "it's a dog's life" did not already exist, we would have to make it up just for these two lovely Beardies.

This page is from 20th November and this one from 21st November.

and I think that is quite enough for one evening. It is blowing an absolute hooley again.

Good news and not so good news

The good news is that despite more rain overnight, the Derwent has dropped a few feet.

The bad news - it is still raining and we are due another inch this afternoon, apparently that can put 12" of water into the river.

More bridges are in danger of collapse and what is not mentioned on the national news is how many small roads are impassable due to debris and flooding. Both routes from our side of Cockermouth into the town are closed - we cannot get to the A66 to travel east. It appears our only way out at present is to go north, pick up the Maryport road, then head off towards Wigton. Management is certain he can get down the A591 to Keswick because he has a train to catch on Tuesday morning - we shall see.

The only thing we are in danger of running out of is fresh milk, and in the great scheme of things, that's not a lot to be fussed about. Unless our village shop/post office gets fresh milk next week then I shall be looking at a very long journey. Given the uncertainty about bridge safety and how long it might be before structures are reopened I'm thinking of going to Carlisle early next week and having a major dry goods and groceries shop - an 80/90 mile round trip instead of the usual 5 miles per week.

I am not complaining – our house is safe and we have food in the freezer. Management and I have often commented on the frailty of the infrastructure which supports 21st century living and the current situation shows just how quickly things can go very pear-shaped.

Had a lovely email earlier from my best friend at school who said What a terrible week for Cumbria it will take a lot of support, long after the media have left to get the area back on its feet. Perhaps the best the rest of us can do is to make a point of visiting the area next summer to help the economy back on its feet,

I think she is right.

I ought to use this time of enforced confinement to catch up on email and blogs, sort through a colossal mass of paperwork which needs to be filed, to clear through my "New Pictures" folder, to attend to all those jobs which get conveniently pushed aside however I cannot settle to anything or concentrate.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Bridge Closed

After the bridge collapse in Workington causing the tragic death of PC Barker, Cumbria Highways are taking no chances.

Since moving to Bag End I have often thought this bridge was a potential weakness - it takes a huge amount of traffic each day and is barely wide enough for two vehicles to pass. Minor chaos of much reversing often occurs when a large lorry needs to get through.

Engineers report this morning that there are cracks in the bridge - of course, it is possible these were here before the flood but no-one is taking the risk. However, there's always one idiot who thinks "Road Closed" signs don't apply to them.

The water level has dropped overnight, I'd guess about 4 feet looking at both the high flotsam line and the level under the bridge arches.
9.00am Saturday

10.00 Friday


The path normally passes under the twin trunked tree.


This is not just a bit of water - this is people's lives.

Just about to hit "publish" and glanced out of the window. This was floating down the middle of the river.

yes - it is a full size fridge or freezer . . . if anyone thinks the worst is over, I don't think we've even seen the start of the extent of the damage and it has just started raining again.

Friday, 20 November 2009

The Morning After

Firstly, thank you to everyone who has phoned, sent a text or emailed to make sure we are OK. Everything at Bag End is fine - a bit of water down the chimney and a wet garage are NOTHING compared to what Cockermouth has to deal with. The whole village was without internet access for most of the day but amazingly we had electricity, a landline, and milk delivered fresh this morning to the village shop.

We sat up until past midnight yesterday watching the TV coverage with complete disbelief - this is our town, we know many of these people - I'd walked down that street on Tuesday, it's where we ate that night with SewAli, and now it is all destroyed. We could see and hear the rescue Sea King helicopters from the house and went to bed feeling completely helpless. It's horrific to watch television and see people we know, places we regularly visit, many tears during the day. This morning Management and I walked down to the river along with many of our neighbours - this is the mess and I am sure there will be more.


We're now nearly cut off because there are fears for the safety of the bridge into our village - it was closed to vehicles early this morning and completely shut off this afternoon. Being marooned is nothing compared to what people in the town will have to deal with in the coming months.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Flooding #3 - afternoon update

Just seen the TV pictures of Cockermouth - Main Street is under about 18" of water which will cause horrendous damage and dreadful losses to the businesses here.

We're absolutely fine at Bag End. The second garage has a lot of water in it -we're coming to the conclusion there might be a spring underneath because when we get heavy rain water comes up through the middle of the floor. As this now happens regularly, nothing is kept on the floor - everything stands on blocks or in plastic bins. There's some water coming down the chimney and settling on the slate hearth behind the WBS - an old towel is catching that. Given the weather conditions outside, we're lucky that is all we have to deal with.

The WBS is on and yes James, it is drawing extremely well right now and throwing out a huge amount of heat!

Have recently spoken to Ann - Loweswater is cut off but she still has power. I will let them tell you about their own bird rescue but it definitely trumps an aged cockerel!

The Derwent is flooded more right now than at its worst point last October


Can't send any email at present and need to find a missing disc . . .

Flooding #2

11.00am:
It's getting worse . . . river levels are continuing to rise and the rain & wind are increasing.

I have been outside for half an hour moving slightly damp logs from the log store into the garage, and completely dry logs from the garage into the Mud Room. It is not cold but I was nearly blown off my feet a couple of times. So glad that "Harry" went to a new home a couple of nights ago because I wouldn't have liked to bet on his chances out in this.

I've just checked up on the Loweswater Puffins and Ann reckons the Cocker will have burst its banks by the end of the day. Roger has made it to Keswick today and reports that the A66 is close to being flooded.

Flooding

After some of the highest winds we've experienced in the last two years plus a night of torrential rain, I wasn't remotely surprised to see the Derwent like this at 8.30am

No amount of messing with PhotoShop will make this picture any better; the sky is leaden and it is still persisting down with a vengeance. Taking the photo meant sticking head outside for about 5 seconds, click and back in.

Once again we're thankful we live on a hill and that the garden slopes. It is a great relief to no longer have to worry about trees coming down when we get such high winds.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Perfect Day?

Yesterday was near darn perfect - and that's good enough for me. For a start, it wasn't raining.

Roof insulation chaps arrived at 8.15. By 10.30 the loft had 300mm of new, clean, fluffy insulation in place, let's just hope it has an effect on the heating bills.


SewAli and the lovely Lumberjack are in the Lake District for a short break and they came over to check out our wood burning stove. They also helped unearth Harry from the thickest growth of Escallonia and get him safely into a box for a short trip to his new home.


This was followed by a visit to The Spice Club, a restaurant of such deliciousness that having a meal there was one of the reasons Sewali drove half way up the country. As many of you know, Management Does Not Do spicy food and we had visions of an evening with chips or rice for him, but, the staff were brilliant and patient in discussing a dish that he might like and for the first time in his life, he was able to enjoy an "indian meal" with the rest of us. It has to be said, this was an "indian" unlike anything I have ever eaten before - style, taste, presentation, utterly delicious. Lumberjack and SewAli were on great form and we talked and laughed our heads off all evening and I have to thank them for one of the best evenings out we have had since we moved to Cumbria.

Update on Mrs Hen

Mrs Hen is no more. Don't panic, Mrs Hen has not died, but it's become clear that she is not a she but a He! Mrs Hen has become Harry (well, he could hardly be Hermione . . .)

This s*x change means that the number of chicken-keepers who might be prepared to give him a new home reduced dramatically but we only needed one, and that turned out to be my friend Georgie from our quilt group. She has kept hens for many years and recently lost all her flock but one. I phoned her on the off-chance expecting a "no" but she enthusiastically said "yes, yes, yes" and came over as soon as work permitted.

By the time she arrived, Harry had settled himself deep in the escallonia; it was fortunate I'd gone out at dusk to check where he was roosting because even with that knowledge, in pitch dark it was nearly impossible to find him. It took five of us with torches, wellies and a lot of determination but eventually we unearthed the little chap, Georgie made a quick grab and with very little complaint Harry found himself being cuddled and stroked by most of the Bag End chicken rustlers (that would be me, SewAli and the Lumberjack - Management held onto his torch and did not participate in the cuddling!)

Georgie thinks this might actually be an old bird rather than a youngster but whatever age he is, he's got a much better chance in her barn than under our shrubbery. He went home in a nice dry, ventilated box with a bed of straw and I'll go and visit once she has him settled.

I'm so glad he spent last night under cover - once again we had really heavy rain and this is how flooded the Derwent was at 8.00am this morning.

The water level has receded a little since then but the ground is completely saturated with more rain forecast.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Food Security

Flummery - latest thought is that Mrs H is a Rhode Island Red, they are the only breed I can find with similar tail feathers. She is still here, pottering around in the driveway shrubbery, eating her fool head off!

Perhaps I should make more effort with Mrs Hen, one day she might give us an egg or two . . .
I have been reading Matron's blog for a very long time. It's inspiring and she has a beautiful Gardening Supervisor, hi Buddy! You might like to read this, it's very thought provoking.

Talking to a chicken-keeping neighbour yesterday, it appears that two birds meeting Mrs H's description have been seen in a field across the road from us for the last two weeks and that it is not uncommon for people around here to dump birds who have got old and stopped laying, or perhaps they were acquired this summer thanks to the GYO/keep hens craze and now that the novelty has worn off, they are no longer wanted?

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Mrs Hen, day two

If this is a normal chicken, I might just keep buying local free range eggs from the chap at the shoe shop off Main Street.

Mrs Hen is doing nothing to endear herself to either of us, regardless of how much time I spend quietly crouched down shaking a pot of corn, she seems incapable of getting it into her pea-sized brain that I am on her side (and I have been doing this for six days now, not just yesterday in the garden). Management is deeply unimpressed with free-range poultry poo . . .

I have decided not to borrow the rabbit hutch from our neighbour. We have no way of getting the hen into it, and unlatched it will be no safer from predators than her chosen roosts. She doesn't seem prepared to climb into/under a large crate we've put in the shrubbery in an attempt to give her somewhere out of the rain (and lined it with fresh barley straw, not perfect chicken bedding but better than nothing). Despite the most horrendous storm last night, she is determined to stay in the shrub bed next to the driveway. I'll continue to put food out for her as long as she is around but it has to be admitted that my first foray into poultry-keeping has not been an unqualified success.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Why does no-one believe me?

when I say I am going to kick back a little and relax?

Last month I had a wonderful day out at a Keswick Embroiderers Guild workshop with Philippa Turnbull. In the dim distant past before my fabric addiction took over and I discovered quilting, I was an embroiderer (that sounds so grand, in truth I dabbled unsuccessfully with needle and thread). I have always loved the Jacobean style of crewelwork designs and admired Philippa's work, what I didn't know was that she lives in Appleby - I drove past her house every time I took Ollie for acupuncture.

As is always the case with a workshop project, I wasn't particularly satisfied with some of the samples I did and have unpicked most of the day's work and mounted the linen in a larger frame. To celebrate our second anniversary and the fact that our sitting room is now (nearly) tidy enough to relax in, I went from this
to this
(there is not a stain on the bottom of the fabric, it's a shadow)
Still a lot of stitching to do before it is finished but I'm pleased and had an extremely chilled out Saturday in front of the WBS and that is all that matters.

Bag End Hen

Add chicken wrangling to the list of "new skills learnt in the last two years"?

Mrs Hen arrived in the hedge opposite our house at the beginning of the week. She does not want to be caught but has a weak spot for the mixed corn/wheat that I put out for the pheasant so I've been able to entice her into the garden where she's less likely to get run over by a passing lorry.

Enquiries around the village have drawn a blank, no-one appears to have lost her or wants to claim her. Tomorrow a neighbour is lending us a spare rabbit hutch so she will have somewhere dry to shelter if she wants, I'm fairly certain she roosted in a dense bit of escallonia last night.

We weren't planning on getting hens at Bag End until next year . . . I suspect she will disappear of her own accord as quietly as she arrived but in the meantime I can see why Flummery spends so much time watching the Rock Chicks

Edit: 11.00am. Have just added another photo - Flummery, any idea what breed she is please? She's BIG, not very noisy, feathers on legs (click pic to enlarge). Am trying not to spend too much time watching her and therefore becoming attached . . .

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Happy Anniversary



Two Years . . . 7th November 2007 when the Pickfords vans rolled away from Hampshire with all our worldly goods carefully packed inside.

At that time we had absolutely no idea where we would end up and certainly never imagined we would find ourselves with a heavenly view and red squirrel in the garden. Sure, we'd ruled out some areas for definite and had an inkling that north west Cumbria might suit us just fine but it was very strange to be heading up the M6 not even knowing where I would be sleeping that night (Management had arranged our rented house bless him, Ollie and I had not seen it).

Today is a good point to put a marker in the ground. Management is away today at a modelling exhibition and I can make no more progress on the loft (electrics) or the sitting room without him. Yesterday I finished painting the outside wall in the sitting room and very smart it looks too, no photos until the curtains are up and all the furniture has been moved moved to its new place. John's quote for removing the large tree stumps at the front arrived and is about what we expected but the work will not happen until next year. It's time to take a rest (by my standards!) and wind down for the remainder of 2009.