Rebuilding lives from Cumbria's flood ruins


A year has passed since devastating floods swept through Cumbria.

Unprecedented rainfall caused rivers to burst their banks leaving many hundreds of people with flooded homes and businesses.

During the 12 months that have followed, the Cumbrians have battled hard to rebuild their lives.

Some have managed to move back into their properties - others have not been so lucky.

In Allerdale, the worst affected area, it is believed about 150 homes are still empty due to the floods.

Michelle Lockett and her daughter Claire are still waiting to move back into their home.

Image caption, Michelle Lockett is still waiting for the remainder of her insurance claim

Their insurance provider and the loss adjuster were unable to agree on building work - delaying repairs for almost a year.

Ms Lockett and Claire were sharing a hotel room for months before moving to a flat in Carlisle.

Ms Lockett said: "It says in our policy that we are covered for flood.

"It doesn't say we are covered for flood but we are going to hassle you for eight months and irritate you to death and make you beg for the money."

Work has started on Ms Lockett's home, but it is unfinished. The insurer has not paid the remainder of the buildings claim and has covered only £5,000 in contents.

The case has now been referred to the Ombudsman.

In Keswick, Lynne Jones is still waiting to move back into her home and business, the Hazelmere guesthouse.

She said she felt "despair" and added: "It takes so long to get your house back together. Some days you can't imagine it ever coming together."

Despite already having flood gates, water seeped in through the brickwork and the floor.

She said: "The carpet was floating, because the water came up from underneath. It was horrible."

She added: "It is not the water and not the work that gets to you. It is the months afterwards. It is the frustration. It is having no control in your life. You are at the mercy of builders and insurance companies."

Nearby, a neighbour of Mrs Jones has taken even more extreme steps after being flooded in 2005 and 2009.

Image caption, Therese McWalter has demolished her house and built it two feet higher

Therese McWalter demolished her home - and rebuilt it 2.5ft (76cm) higher off the ground.

The bungalow is now constructed on top of a void and a block and beam floor.

She said: "It was a question of what do you do? Do you live in fear? Or do you rebuild at horrible expense and disruption, just to be able to close your front door and have peace of mind."

She hopes to be in the new house by March. Meanwhile she is renting accommodation, her daughter is in a caravan, and she is paying for the storage of all her contents.

However the insurance company would only pay out for part of the damage.

She added: "The whole thing has been a shambles, and a stress, from start to finish."

Sue Cashmore lives on Gote Road in Cockermouth.

The road runs alongside the River Derwent and has been flooded three times in the last five years.

Image caption, Ms Cashmore said water rose 7ft (2.13m) in her house

Ms Cashmore, 50, is a member of the Cockermouth Flood Action Group, which acts as a community voice at meetings discussing flood defence.

Ms Cashmore said on the night of 19 November, the water rose to 7ft (2.13m) in her house - almost touching her ground-floor ceiling.

Together with her two daughters, aged 16 and 19, she was trapped for 18 hours upstairs. They were eventually rescued by the RNLI the following morning.

Ms Cashmore said: "It got a bit scary and we were even making plans to move into the attic."

When they returned five days later, she described the house as "very smelly, and full of mud and sludge".

She added: "I like it living here, I like my neighbours, it's a nice view out of the back. But would I sell it if I could? Yes, I would."

Since the floods, she and the Flood Action group have successfully campaigned for defences to be built behind properties on the street.

Now, a large grass embankment has been built alongside the river. There is also a pumping system in place.

When rain started to fall as work on the defences got under way, Ms Cashmore said: "It's the first time I didn't feel overly anxious. Because I thought 'they're here they are here helping us. We are going to be all right this year'."

Image caption, Fiona and Ryan lived in a caravan for seven months

Three doors along Fiona Tunstall and Ryan, five, lived for seven months in a caravan outside their home.

Mrs Tunstall was given anti depressants during this time. She also had trouble sleeping.

Their home was flooded by lunchtime of the 19 November, with water six inches from the ground-floor ceiling.

Mrs Tunstall and Ryan fled across the road to their friends, but their house flooded too and they were all trapped until the next morning when the RNLI rescued them.

She said: "It was unbelievable when I went back in the house. It was awful to see everything that was lost. And we had no insurance."

She said she was receiving income support at the time, but had little help from the council.

The pair have now moved to Dearham in Maryport.

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