Now, after a month’s average rain fell in 24 hours, the area around Cockermouth, Braithwaite, Keswick and Carlisle looks more like a mud swamp.
The devastation wrought by Storm Desmond in Cumbria is truly shocking. Roads have been blocked, villages cut off from the outside world and many people won’t be able to move back into their houses for months. It’s a grim prospect, especially with Christmas just round the corner.
I spent a few days in Cumbria in October. The weather was fine and we had the time of our lives. We climbed majestic Maiden Moor and Catbells and strolled round Newlands Valley, famed for its associations with Beatrix Potter. Although she lived further south, Beatrix Potter often stayed at Lingholm, a massive pile on the shores of Derwentwater. It was on one of her walks nearby that she met Lucie Carr, the local vicar’s daughter, and she wrote The Tale of Mrs Tiggywinkle for her, complete with sweet drawings of Skelgill Farm and the isolated village of Little Town.
But in the last few days the landscape has been utterly transformed. The house near Keswick where we stayed is set halfway down a peaceful valley but on Saturday the long, sloping drive was turned into a wild, tumultuous river and the bridge over the stream was completely swept away in the deluge.
The floods will take a terrible toll on the region. The Lake District depends on farming and tourism for its economic survival and it’s going to be months before hotels, pubs, shops and businesses are up and running again. More than 1,000 homes still don’t have any power and the people of Cumbria will be counting the cost of the storm, which killed livestock, swept walls away and left many in darkness, for a long time to come. Our hearts go out to them.