Water Water everywhere
First weekend in Dec of all weekend was our annual lads Christams biking and bozzy do. This year we where staying at Grasmere for a change, staying in the old YHA hostel which had been recently refurbished into a very good bunk house with its own bar (-: Even by the time we had arrived on the Friday nght the heavens had already opened and we had to make a dash to the bunkhouse for a well earned pint and catch up with the rest of the lads. This year was a good turn out with 14 of us for the full weekned and Tim joining us in the morning for breakfast.
"No cooking for us these days (-: "
Through the night I kept waking up and the rain kept coming down until eventually after a restless night I awoke to a continual deluge of sheet rain. During breakfast the news started to come in that the Lakes was cut off and the only ones that were coming in or out were by land-rover or boat! Tim being one of them as he reported in via mobile that the police had a road block stopping anyone trying to enter the Lakes. By now we had resigned ourselves to a very wet ride as we wouldn't even be able to venture by car as the village of Grassmere was badly affected and we were due to be evicted from the hostle for the day. At least the roads would be clear, which can never be said normally as riding on the main roads in the Lakes is anything but safe, with us usually opting for the quite roads or bridle ways.
Mark Davies and Chris Brown had decided to don the boots and go for a short walk with the rest of us fully cagged up setting off down to Ambleside “on bikes” to see what all the fuss was about. We'd only gone down the hill and all to soon it became apparent what was going on as we hit our first flood. Even on bikes it was hard to get through but at least we were faring better than the cars which where abandoned everywhere. I can't forget the words of the wise old local man saying to us as we rode by “Be careful it’ll take thee lad”
Heading down the very quite road in to Ambleside we where shocked by the amount of water, and that the river Rothay was breeching at every opportunity causing chaos. I felt sorry for the drivers who were attempting to escape the rising river levels and ultimately a lot not making it.
Passing one of the large (recently refurbished) hotel it was difficult to see where the edge of the river was at it looked like it was in the middle of a lake and nearly up to the first floor windows, So much for the recent work.
We had planned a route down some of the back roads but our first option was soon put to bed as you hardly tell the difference between the river and the additional lake. Thinking better of it we carried on down the main road to the next bridge over the river Rothay to see if we could pick up the track only to be faced with a new stream coming down the track to our right. Even though it was raining hard spirits were high and Keith road straight though it with me following suit and before I knew it I was in the middle feeling my wheels slipping from under me. Fortunately they held as the consequence of a slip does not bare thinking about. Knee deep on the other side and realising we'd bitten off more than we could chew Keith struggled back over leaving me with the words “ Be careful it’ll take thee lad” ringing in my ear. As I attempted to push my bike though everyone realised I was struggling but thankfully Keith came back to my rescue and guided my across.
Definitely one of those times when you realise you'd been a tad foolish and thankfully all ended OK and even in the short time as we looked back we could see the water rising. At the same time a 4x4 vehicle rolled up, he'd been across earlier but soon chose wisely to give it a miss.
Eventually we arrived in Ambleside, unfortunately Phil had got a flat so I used the time to seek refuse in a cafe for a welcomed brew and respite from the still heavy rain.
By now the novelty was wearing thin and we needed some light refreshment and some merriment so decide to find a suitable hostelry that would take on 14 very wet men. At least they could be assured of a welcome boost to the tills. Even though we where wet and hungry, standards must me met, and the two pubs looked at did not sever the required Landlord beers so we headed off back towards Grassmere in search of Gold. It wasn't long before the Badger Bar was sort out and this time it met the minimum requirments, and with stone floors they where more than welcoming to a band of drenched rats. Settled in albeit wet, ale was perchased to quench the thirst and food was brought to keep us going for the long ride home “All three miles of it” all this blessed with a lovely burning fire to dry our jackets out and at least for a short time dull out the persistent noise of the continual heavy rain. But as with every good thing eventually we couldn't put it off any longer, and we wanted to get to back Grassmere before the sun (-: set to continue the evening entertainment and an even shorter distance to bed
Re tracing our route it was difficult to recognise things as in the short time we where in the pub the water had risen far more and the main road in to Grassmere was almost un-rideable with some having to get off and push.
In all the years I've been going to the Lakes I'd never seen anything like it with the makeshift barricades in front of the shops long since given up on, the place was awash and would take weeks to recover.
As with the Friday night, Tweedies bar was the meeting place for the evening, there was no point in going back to the digs to get washed and don dry cloaths as it was impossible to get back down though the floods, so it was drowned rats again. This was by now the order of the day as everyone who came in was in the same boat with similar stories to tell, and the wet clothes to prove it.
I myself prefer the light gold beers of the lakes but Wastwater Gold was soon drunk dry forcing a change and I was just getting to the stage, as usual where I'd had enough and wanted to call it a day, when things started to liven up and beer starting going down well.
Only trouble with any combination of alcohol and rowdy lads things soon get loud, but with a restaurant in the adjacent room things weren’t mixing very well. Fortunately things just about kepted on an even keel and we avoided an eviction, help by Tomo's banter with the landlord.
During the night the main topic of conversation was our retreat from the Lakes, it was definitely looking likely that we'd not be going anywhere on the Sunday, not that that would bother me as I'd fortunately got the Monday and Tuesday off. I had never been stuck in the Lakes before so I was quite looking forward to another enforced night in the local beer house, but I doubt the ale would have lasted that long.
Over breakfast the next morning I was surprised to find I'd only got a light hangover, even though I'd managed to get though Severn pints (No mean feat on my part) and I feel quite refreshed.
Looking out of the window you wouldn’t have imagined that we where in the same part of the world and we could actually see the fell tops and the sun was shining. Our plan for the day was to head up to Easdale tarn and take in the views, and even those who where hoping to head home wisely decided to at least give the water levels time to drop before attempting to make the uncertain trip home.
Walking up to Easdale Tarn I was aware that I had not done much walking of late, but it was good to stretch the legs and catch up on what the lads had been up to and I soon got in to it. As we approached the lake a splinter group formed to stroll around the lake with the rest of us carrying on up to the ridge, with hopefully some good views of the flooded area and prolonging setting off back. You could tell it had rain a lot as the ground was very water logged, no wonder the rivers were swollen with the water was running straight off an already sodden lanscape.
Relaxed and enjoying the walk down, I even forgot about the floods in the valley bottomes and it wasn't long before we rolled up back at camp not that far behind the B team who were just starting ritual of sherry and mince pices, and for ones we could enjoy it with no rain.
Driving home it was diffecult to visualise the day before as miraculously most of the floodwater had receded leaveing all but the worst areas clear and apart for the countless numbers of abandend cars you would never have know. Speaking to the locals in Ambleside we where unsure which way to go as news for coming in that Kendale was gridelocked and the road North to Keskick was impasserble, also Keith had just phone to say Kirkstone was out and they where heading back over. Opening the map we concidered the options and decided to head back via Winster and suck it and see. As we approched the Lyth Valley it wasn't looking good and likely we had made a bad choice as every where, left and right was a wash with water and we still had the main area to get through. Mile by mile we kept going and but for a perfectly flat road six inches half a mile long above a flooded lanscap we would have had to turn back and maybe a few hours earlier it would have been so, but amasingly we did get though to join a very busy A590 the route that most drivers had chosen.
It had been a top weekend and one we would never forget, seeing the Lakes in those conditions makes you realise that we have no power over nature and no amount of defences would have kept the water at bay. I feel sorry for the locals whom we left behind to clear up the mess, and what a mess it is, although it is very good for media they are the ones who have to live with it.
It as been great to see comunitys pulling together and know doubt they will bounce back as usuall, will it be another twenty years before the next big flood, I doubt it,
A mere visitor
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