Storm Desmond 2015

by Rob Shephard

All images © Patterdale Community Flood Group

Frantic efforts prove fruitless as Glenridding beck bursts its banks

Following a month of heavy rainfall, the full force of Storm Desmond hit Glenridding on the afternoon of Saturday 5th December 2015. Frantic efforts to protect homes and businesses proved fruitless as the full devastating impact of the storm hit. Glenridding beck burst its banks in the village in the early evening and the next morning was flowing freely down Eagle lane, across the car park, and right through the Glenridding Hotel, bringing with it thousands of tonnes of silt, gravel and stone, carried down the fells from landslips all the way up to Helvellyn. The village was now cut off – the lake road was impassable, and the road between Glenridding and Patterdale was underwater for three days.

Glenridding beck bursts its banks

Landslips, flooding and roads ripped up

It wasn’t just Glenridding that was ravaged by Storm Desmond. In Patterdale, Grisedale Bridge burst its banks, causing landslips up the valley, ripping up the road outside Patterdale Hall and flooding all the properties at Grisedale Bridge. Goldrill Bridge was underwater and landslips on Place Fell narrowly avoided crushing houses, instead leaving a trail of mud, debris and stone on the roads to Rookins. Further up the Dale there was a landslide at Noran Bank which blocked the main road, the beck bank was washed out at Lanefoot in Deepdale and in Hartsop the road was again under water by Cow Bridge, with devastation to the walls and fields from Kirkstone down.

Road ripped up outside Patterdale Hall

Heroic effort to  remove over 20,000 tonnes of gravel and stone from the beck

The Dale was effectively cut off for three days, with no phone lines, intermittent power, and no mains water. The community rallied together and aided by the heroic efforts of local contractors from Beckside Construction and O’Malleys, set about clearing out the becks, and cleaning up the properties and businesses which had been inundated. Over 20,000 tonnes of gravel and stone was removed from Glenridding Beck just from the village hall to the lakeshore. This was dropped on Jenkins Field. Despite further setbacks, including another significant flood on the evening of Wednesday 9th December, the recovery continued throughout December, into January throughout 2016.

Removing boulders from the beck

The Community Flood Group

At the start of 2016 a new Community Flood Group was set up to manage efforts to make the community more resilient to future extreme weather events. Work has continued with government agencies, the National Trust, LDNP, Natural England and the Woodland Trust to look at a range of measures from the heads of the valley to the Lake to stabilise the fells, slow the flow, manage gravel and stone deposits, and ensure individual homes and businesses are better protected.

Reducing the risk

The Environment Agency completed a new flood defence wall in Glenridding in April 2019 and since 2016 there has been an ongoing effort to ensure that gravel levels do not build up significantly in the beck, under the bridge and down at the beck mouth by Ullswater. This has included work from the EA and many hours of volunteer and community work to clear stones by hand – including over 1000 hours during the Covid lockdown of 2019. 

Parish Lengthsman at work

Various other initiatives have been completed, including significant tree planting in the Grisedale Valley and on Place Fell to improve stability and reduce the risk of landslides. Significant work has also been done to keep gravel levels low in Grisedale Beck and at Hartsop. Given the amount of rock and stone displaced during Storm Desmond this will be an ongoing task for years to come. Most importantly of all the Parish now employs a lengthsman to work throughout the year on keeping road and field drains clear.

Tree-planting in Grisedale

Working to stay prepared

Whilst we have not seen the intense rainfall levels experienced during Storm Desmond, we have had cumulative comparable levels, with 2021 producing as much rain as the whole of 2015. The fact that we haven’t had to wade through flood water or even paddle through deep puddles reflects the success of the work done to date. However, this work will never be complete and all we can do is be as prepared as we can for the next big event……

by Rob Shephard

For more information see The Patterdale Parish Community Flood Group

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