Farmers battle floods after storms hit Cumbria

Farmers in Cumbria are battling flood waters to move stock to higher ground after relentless rain caused widespread damage in the region.

Rivers burst their banks and swept through low-lying lands of west Cumbria after relentless downpours saw 13in (330mm) of rain fall in just 24 hours.

Dead sheep and cattle have already been spotted close to Cockermouth, one of the areas worst-hit by the River Derwent overflowing.

Lorton Bridge in the Lorton Valley in the heart of the western Lake District was washed away during the night.

Sheep farmer Andrew Nicholson said he had never witnessed anything like the amount of rain that had fallen so quickly.

“I have a bunch of cattle about a mile away from home but because the bridge has gone I’ve had to travel eight miles to feed them today – and that’s going to be how it is all through the winter until the bridge is repaired.

“A lot of farmers will have lost stock. This morning is the first chance we’ve had to see just how bad things are.

“There are Land Rovers that have been washed off roads sitting in fields and massive areas of low-lying land under water. It’s unbelievable.

“The rain came so fast and there was so much of it we just didn’t stand a chance. I should think there are at least 500 acres in this valley totally under several feet of water,” said Mr Nicholson.

Adam Day, auctioneer at Mitchells Auction Mart, Cockermouth, was at home on Friday morning (20 november) having been unable to travel to the mart because of the flooded roads that have virtually cut-off the area around Cockermouth itself.

“There must be areas under 10-12 ft of water. I’ve never seen anything so fast. The River Derwent is travelling through the centre of Cockermouth at 20mph. The town centre is a total wreck.”

Big bales of silage have been seen floating alongside the dead cattle and sheep in the flooded river.

On Friday morning farmers were out trying to ascertain the scale of their stock losses as many feared there will be well into the hundreds of dead animals if not substantially more.

Longsleddale, a remote valley north of Kendal, was deluged with rain for 48 hours.

All roads into the valley were blocked and it is only this morning that farmers have been able to venture out to see if the measures they took to keep stock safe from the rising waters have been successful.

Said one farmer, speaking briefly from his Land Rover, ” We are still trying to find some sheep but, in the panic to get them to safety, we just opened the gates and drove everything on to land we hoped would not be submerged but it’s clear that’s not always been the case.

“And all the groups of ewes we’d sorted out to go with certain tups have all been mixed up so it’s been a nightmare whatever way you look at it.”

The Sheep and Wool Centre in Cockermouth – a well-known visitor attraction – has been turned into a temporary shelter for families made homeless by the floods.