Life-saving farmer left with £15,000 clear-up bill

A Cumbrian farmer who helped save the lives of fell runners when extreme weather conditions descended on the Lake District claims he has been left £15,000 out of pocket.

Willie Richardson was expecting fell runners taking part in last October’s Original Mountain Marathon to camp on his land at Gatesgarth Farm, Buttermere.

But weather conditions became so wild during the two-day event that organisers asked him to allow about 900 runners into an animal wintering shed he had just built to hold 1000 sheep and cows.

“I agreed in the circumstances to let the runners shelter there, but I made it clear that they had to keep off a big area of concrete which had only been laid the day before,” said Mr Richardson.

“This section, which was rippled on top to help cows get a better grip, was cordoned off but as more and more runners arrived, the cordon broke and people ended up walking, sleeping and even cooking on the new surface.”

Mr Richardson said he and his contractor were “horrified” when they saw the shed the next day.

They repaired the damage at a total cost of around £15,000 but have been unable to make a claim against the event’s insurers because the OMM had no public liability insurance.

Mr Richardson is now pursuing a claim against the event’s organisers.

“I’m very angry,” said Mr Richardson. “The police warned the OMM organisers that bad weather was on the way. But they still went ahead and it ended up completely chaotic in the shed. We were overwhelmed.

“The thing that hurts the most is that we actually saved people’s lives. If that shed hadn’t been there, the organisers would have been telephoning for undertakers the next morning. A lot of people would have died from hypothermia.”

Prof John Ashton, joint director of public health for the Cumbria County Council and Cumbria Primary Care Trust, said organisers of the OMM should pick up the bill for the rescue operation, which resulted in 13 people being taken to hospital.

No one at OMM was available for comment.

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