This afternoon in the Cockermouth sunshine the confluence of the Cocker and the Derwent looked tranquil. On 19th November 2009 it was a very different picture. Record volumes of rainwater poured down the two rivers from the Lake District mountains and inundated the centre of this historic town.
Parts of the town that day were under six to nine feet of water. One property affected was the poet William Wordsworth’s birthplace. National Trust staff hurriedly carried irreplaceable items up stairs to higher floors before eventually being compelled to leave to avoid being completely cut off by the rising water. Today the water level is marked on the wall of one room, just a few inches from the ceiling.
Outside, the garden was completely swamped, plants and shrubs carried away by the force of the pounding water. But here it is today, above, looking toward the river with the new flood defences in the background, and below, looking toward the house. What a tremendous restoration job the staff and volunteers have done. Were the apple trees washed away and later replaced, or did they stand firm against the waters? I forgot to ask, but the apples on them looked incredibly tempting. (Yes, I resisted!)
Inside the house all is to the standard one has come to expect of the National Trust. If I were to make just one criticism (but really, it pales almost into insignificance against the excellence of the work that has been done) it would be that I’d have benefited from a simple sheet of card somewhere in each room outlining the nature of the room and identifying its principal contents. In fairness, though, I had failed to take one of the guide cards from the entrance hall.
It feels almost unfair to have separated out for prime attention this one building. So many homes and businesses were torn apart by that 2009 flooding – but look at Cockermouth today. Great credit is due to the people of the town and to the authorities for such a splendid work of restoration – which in some parts still continues. Well done, Cockermouth.