Cumbria floods: County rallies ahead of Christmas

Welcome message
Image caption Businesses in Cockermouth display morale-boosting, welcoming messages

Despite concern about further heavy rain, flood-hit communities in Cumbria are determined that festive celebrations should go ahead.

Some have suffered three separate flooding events in less than a month, and many are camping out in their damaged homes, but the resolve to be ready for Christmas has seen volunteers rally with hot drinks, presents and home repairs.

Six years after Cockermouth was ravaged by flooding, Pastor Roger Bye and helpers from Churches Together were again on the streets handing out aid to those whose homes had been destroyed.

Image caption Baskets of goodies to flood victims determined to stay in their homes over Christmas

He said: "To be back here six years on and to see the same homes emptied again - people have been rebuilding since 2009 and here we are again.

"We are playing a small part but we hope it is an important part."

Sue Cashmore, from the Cockermouth Flood Action Group, paid tribute to the volunteers.

"It's the people who have given for free who are really supporting us and helping us," she said.

"They are really listening to you."

Image copyright Eden Flood volunteers
Image caption Members of the Eden Flood Volunteer Group were overwhelmed with gift donations

Elsewhere in the town, retired builder Dennis Cooper has been helping his daughter get her water-damaged home ready for the festive season.

He said he was pleased with the results.

"The carpets are in and we will be having some kind of family gathering like we always do," he explained. "It will mean a huge amount to the kiddies in the family to see a bit of normality."

Reverend Godfrey Butland, team rector for the Cockermouth area, said residents Andy and Sandy Brown summed up the fighting spirit of the town.

The pair, who live in Riverside Terrace, managed to brighten up their sodden home with a donated tree and some basic lights.

Image copyright Andy Brown
Image caption Andy and Sandy Brown of Cockermouth could not wait for their walls to dry before putting up their donated tree

But in nearby Carlisle, some streets are still without electricity.

Sharon Sjurseth's home in Warwick Road was badly damaged, but she managed to bring her television and sofa back in, and was able to salvage the Christmas tree.

She said: "There was still a musty smell in the living room, but I've been using air freshener spray to mask it."

Image copyright PA
Image caption Sharon Sjurseth managed to save her Christmas tree despite her home being waterlogged
Image copyright Carlisle Vineyard Church
Image caption A volunteer gives out hot drinks to residents of Tullie Street, Carlisle, which is still without electricity

Churchgoers have been keeping festive spirits high by taking hot drinks to those trying to straighten out their homes.

Even the churches themselves have been badly hit - St Aidan's Church in Carlisle is unusable for the foreseeable future, so it held its annual carol service in the open air.

Image copyright Miriam Lowe
Image caption The inside of St Aidan's Church in Carlisle is so badly damaged that it will not be used for the foreseeable future

Miriam Lowe, of Youth With a Mission, described it as another symbol of Cumbrian hardiness.

"We held this outdoor service to stand with the community and encourage all those affected," she said.

Reverend Sarah Lunn, from St Lawrence's Church in Appleby, also praised the local spirit, after the town was flooded for the third time.

She said: "The resilience of the town has been absolutely wonderful.

"It's a very loving community, very caring."

However, amid all the cheer, people will be keeping a close eye on the weather forecasts.

Image caption Dennis Cooper is determined his family will gather and celebrate Christmas

David Little, who was flooded out of his home in Warwick Road, said people in his street would be nervous whenever it rained heavily.

"I think everybody will [be worried] for a while.

"The longer it goes without doing it again, the more comfortable we will be I think."

He added: "We have to just make the best of it really.

"[It] could have been spoiled, it hasn't been, I won't let it. You have to just crack on."

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