Storm Desmond in Borrowdale one year on

Before and after Storm Desmond, Friars Crag, Borrowdale
Published : 02 Dec 2016 Last update : 05 Dec 2016

National Trust rangers in Borrowdale and Buttermere Valley have been working all year to repair the damage caused by Storm Desmond on 5th December 2015.

The work’s not finished and there are some big jobs that we’re still raising funds for, but here’s a bit of a round-up of some of the jobs we’ve completed this year.

Emergency repairs

In days immediately after Storm Desmond we focused our time and energy on doing emergency “quick fixes” to the paths that had been ripped up, gates broken, bridges shifted so that they’d be ready for walkers coming to the Lakes that Christmas – although getting our shop beside Derwent Water back open and ready for business took a bit longer!

Before and after Storm Desmond, Keswick Lakeside shop

Mending the gate at Strandhag Bay, near Friar’s Crag, replacing the culvert on the Cat Bells terrace path that was carried away by a huge landslide, and repairing a bridge on the Derwent Water lakeshore route were just some of the many jobs that the rangers worked flat out to repair.

Mending paths and gates in time for Christmas 2015 was top priority
Before and after Storm Desmond repairs Derwent Water, Lake District

Iain, Sam and Andrew, rangers from Wasdale and Eskdale, which hadn’t been so badly hit by Storm Desmond, came over to help us with the Cat Bells job – thank you so much guys!

Large scale engineering

Some of the damage was so bad that we couldn’t fix it ourselves – like the gabions supporting the path at Friar’s Crag which had been ripped apart by trees and branches that acted as battering rams hurled by the waves at the shoreline.

Before and after Storm Desmond, Friars Crag, Borrowdale

Two of our ancient packhorse bridges also developed cracks and were in danger of collapsing. They’re listed structures (like a listed building) and for the outdoor teams they’re our equivalent of a precious tapestry or an oil painting by an old master. Specialist contractors supported the bridges with foam while they were stripped down and rebuilt.

Repairing this 800yr old packhorse bridge was one of the biggest engineering jobs
before and after image of Watendlath bridge

Contractors also helped us rebuild the 15ft orchard wall at Barrow Point, Derwent Water.

The force of the beck in spate pushed this wall over
Before and after Storm Desmond, Barrow Point, Borrowdale

Becoming ‘Flood Resilient’ for the future

We decided in some places not to replace paths and walls like-for-like.  Sometimes there’s no point trying to fight against extreme weather events when they seem to be happening more frequently. Why replace a wall that’s already been knocked down by the river twice in the last five years?

With climate change making extreme weather events both more likely and more unpredictable, it’s not about trying to become ‘flood proof’, but our aim was to design solutions that mean when the next flood happens, it won’t destroy our damage our work in the same way – to become ‘flood resilient’.

Before and after Storm Desmond, Strandshag Bay, Keswick

At these points we used specialist advice to help design solutions that will be more resilient to future floods – like the new higher level path at Strandshag Bay, which will be out of the reach of the waves. Fencing off the trees will also enable saplings to grow which will help make the bank stronger so it’s less vulnerable to damage in future storms.

Down the valley, the rebuilt wall where the river crosses the road now has built-in gaps to allow the water to flow. Hopefully this means that once floodwater subsides the road isn’t blocked by the stones of a wall which has been pushed over.

Before and after Storm Desmond, Rosthwaite, Borrowdale

The next big projects

Our work for next year includes some really big projects, like designing and constructing a new boathouse for Derwent Island, after the last one was physically lifted and moved by the flood waters and had to be demolished.

The old boathouse had to be demolished after it was lifted off its footings by flood water
Before and after Storm Desmond, Derwent Island boathouse, Borrowdale

Also we’re working on a long-term solution for the Cat Bells landslide to help stabilise the bank that’s above people’s houses and the narrow road that’s their only link to Keswick.

And we’re continuing to work with the local community in Braithwaite to explore how a different approach to farming the land upstream can help use natural processes to reduce the speed of water flowing down the valley and reduce the risk of landslides, like the one that sent tonnes of boulders and debris tearing through their village during Storm Desmond.

Landslide at Braithwaite
Landslide at Braithwaite, Cumbria

How you can help

The work continues and every penny you donate to the Lake District Flood appeal helps us to create some really sustainable long-term solutions that will benefit both the land and the people of the Lake District. Or, you could come on holiday to the Lakes and see our work first hand while supporting local businesses.

Donate to the Lake District flood appeal

With your support we can continue to repair the destruction caused by Storm Desmond and protect the Lake District from future storms