Given that the walking weather app that is the Gremlin had been delivering almost hourly gloomy updates along the lines of ‘12.00pm: 90% chance of rain. 1.00pm: 40% chance of rain. 2.00pm: 60% chance of rain’ (you get the gist), we fully expected the Taste Cumbria extravaganza to be a little washed out, to say the least. As it turned out, the weather men (from whom the Gremlin acquires his eternally-unreliable weather information), had it wrong. Again.
Blustered about a bit, yes (we heard from Coffee Kitchen’s Andy that their stall had shifted four feet overnight following Friday’s set up), but washed out, no. Anything but. And the town was buzzin’.
‘The pies have arrived!’ declared one A-board, and they certainly had. Along with an infinite selection of bread, cheese, chutney, cake and garlic. In no particular order. And scones. Plenty of scones. There were any number of tempting ways to while away the darker nights, what with locally brewed beer, gin, whisky and toffee vodka – and sarsaparilla or dandelion and burdock for those of a mind to travel (soberly) back in time. Fish was out in force again (we love Fyne Fish!), as was the home-grown meat (which does sound faintly rude, for which I apologise). These things also seem to attract an inordinate number of hand-crafted woodworkers but the prize for best play on words in a name in the hand-crafted wood category surely goes to Wavy Grain?
Veggie restaurant Quince and Medlar – whose amazing vegan Christmas fruit cake, bought at the Christmas Taste Cumbria last December, inspired our own wedding cake – were there again with their usual eclectic range of cakes, tarts, ready-to-cook veggie dishes and foraged fruit-inspired chutneys. Not to mention their extremely chocolatey chocolate bars. More chocolatey than a chocolate thing. We like Q&M so much, we came round a second time for fresh supplies on Sunday.
Inexplicably, there was a man in a blue wig and blue-painted beard, wearing a set of orange goggles, with what looked very much like two car exhausts strapped to his back. He appeared to be entertaining the kids – and adults, for that matter. Another chap seemed to be trying to set his lovely assistant on fire. Maybe it was the same man? I’m not sure. We didn’t linger for the denouement but assume she escaped unscathed. (Don’t try that at home, kids).
A man with a clipboard appeared to have lost his sausage. Or that’s what I think I heard. ‘On the right,’ he’s told. ‘On the right’.
‘Passion du fromage’ couldn’t decide whether they were singular or plural, one banner having been printed with an ‘s’ at the end of the cheese-word, now clearly scrubbed out leaving a big blank ‘s’-shaped space in its place. Had I been their marketing consultant, I might have suggested they ditch that particular print run and get a fresh one ordered – to match the perfectly correct one next to it! Maybe they thought we wouldn’t notice.
There was a great deal more, of course – and it won’t be too long before the Christmas version is upon us (hopefully, this year, not immediately following a flood!). The Taste Cumbria Food Festival has been coming to Cockermouth now for seven years. Last year, it attracted over 40,000 visitors to the town, injecting an incredible £1.9million into the local economy. More than 100 producers had stalls on Main Street last weekend and many reported this being the busiest yet. I haven’t seen figures yet for this year but it was great to see the town so buzzy.
Returning briefly to that weather forecast, it wasn’t until Sunday afternoon that the heavens really opened – just as we were walking back from our second dose of food festival. En route into town, we’d passed our neighbours, who remarked how ‘dressed up for rain’ we were – maybe overly so – unlike them. But even that didn’t save us. To say we were soaked would be an understatement. Not helped in any way by the very kind gentleman in the white car who chose to drive straight through a deep puddle, very close to the pavement on our side of an otherwise empty-of-traffic Strawberry How Road, rather than be bothered moving his steering wheel just a tad to the right. But hey, at least he was dry. My trainers and trousers are still drying out.
Planning for rain…
Speaking of rain, I gather that our friend Mr Story has put in for an amendment to his original planning application for Strawberry Swamp, to include additional flood alleviation measures – and incorporating much use of the words ‘pluvial’ and ‘fluvial’.
Since building began, we’ve wondered at the many, many hours spent soil shovelling, for no obvious reason. Men in suits and dayglo waistcoats, scratching their heads and pointing at deep water-filled trenches. Others, in orange jumpsuits – digging trenches, filling them in, digging them out again, watching them fill with water and then filling them in again. And shovelling soil. Lots of soil. For no obvious reason. Indeed, some areas of the site appear to have been raised so much higher than we expected, they’re practically on stilts. But then what do we know? We’re not builders, just bemused onlookers.
We’ve even wondered at the time it appears to be taking to build two show houses, and to get the footings in across the way. Surely they should be further on by now? Might it be something to do with the water? We’ll never know the truth, of course.
As for these new drainage measures, time was when you could walk along the footpath on Strawberry How Road, adjacent to the underground stream, and hear it gurgling and rushing beneath you. Now locked inside concrete, it gurgles on unheard. From there it passes (now completely encased in pipework), under the field to the other side, before exiting across the path by Tom Rudd Beck (at speed, during heavy rainfall). According to the new maps, the existing drainage here will ‘be improved’ using two outfall pipes and two large manholes.
The Flood Risk Addendum acknowledges that the north eastern edge of the site suffers flooding from rainwater. Tom Rudd Beck, they note, also flooded in December 2015, adding – lest we get too excited at this admission that the beck overflows – that it didn’t breach the existing bridle path embankment on the northern perimeter of the site.
The ‘fluvial risk’ has apparently been mitigated by raising plot levels in that north east corner of the field, but there is still potential for ‘possible future pluvial flows’ to pond to the east of dwellings 76 and 77, ‘causing a dam situation between the new and existing raised embankments’ (the probability of which, one of my fellow campaigners has quite rightly been banging on about for some months).
To deal with this, Story Homes plans to create a one metre wide ‘berm cutting’ within the existing pedestrian embankment which will allow excess rainwater to flow through towards the beck, thus avoiding those two properties.
All this added flood risk alleviation on site sort of confirms that we campaigners were right all along. But I’m still not entirely sure how this will impact on the volume of water heading towards the town. Nothing much seems to have changed in that respect. Surely, that underground stream will now flow all the faster, tumbling unheeded as it will along smoother surfaces. Flow rate and velocity can only increase – the antithesis of those flood prevention measures which encourage landowners to slow the flow with trees and meandering water courses.
And as for the berm cutting, as with the SUDs ponds the responsibility for this will land on a ‘management company’ (ultimately the property owners). How long before the berm and the ponds fall into disrepair?
..and planning for the neighbourhood
It was earlier this year when the majority of our town councillors voted not to pursue the idea of a neighbourhood plan for the town. No appetite in the community, they said, and too expensive, with figures of £40-50,000 bandied about – both such claims now seeming very wide of the mark. One community managed their neighbourhood plan for just £4,500 and, if initial response from the community is anything to go by, there is ample appetite out there.
The idea of a neighbourhood plan is to give back some measure of control to the community, so that growth and change in Cockermouth can be managed, keeping pace with the infrastructure and benefiting the town and its people (not just the avaricious developers who see it as such an attractive proposition).
Somehow I seem to have ‘volunteered’ to get involved with this, yet another campaign (I really should stop sticking my hand up). A small – but fast-growing – group is gathering information to present to our councillors when they reach that golden six-month mark which allows them to revisit a previous decision (the much quoted Standing Order 11A, you will recall). We’ve even got a Facebook page. So… watch this space.
And, finally, news from Vassiliki
Meanwhile, over in Vassiliki, my ‘contact on the ground’, Eleanor (Ele, for short), tells me we’ve missed all sorts since departing the sunshine. Peter André was seen knocking about the town, apparently filming a documentary, but – far more interesting – a pod of dolphins came to play in the bay and, last weekend, she (that’s Ele) drove past a ‘load of flamingoes’! You turn your back for one minute!!