Jenny Benson is riding for Cockermouth’s Defenses

Jenny's Bike weating a tutu

Jennins River RideJenny Benson is going to tackle the 40 mile charity bike ride on Sunday 18 September to raise money for vital flood defence work in the town. Jenny is a Flood Warden for Cockermouth Flood Action Group and she helps other people ensure they are better prepared for any future flooding. If you’d like to sponsor her bike ride go to:

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Letter to Times and Star summarising activities of 2010


Rest assured residents of Cockermouth, a great deal of work is being undertaken to ensure that all aspects of flooding issues are being listened to and I am pleased to say that the majority are either being constructed or in the stages of design.

For the past year I have read the articles in the Times & Star and noted your concerns, perhaps the only point we have failed on is feedback to the general public, our problems there have been the speed at which developments have been happening, with often changes to design or ownership being rethought at the eleventh hour.

Let me take you through the last 12 months where the Cockermouth Flood Action Group (CFAG) has been working very closely with the Environment Agency. This time last year there were going to be no major defences in the Gote area until at least 2015 (this would now probably read 2020 in the present financial climate), the removal of gravel from within the river was a big “no,no”.

So here we are 12 months on and there is much to report. After a year of meetings (I have attended at least forty technical ones), we have a defence in place to the rear of the Gote, no mean feat in itself, having to deal with Environment Agency, Cumbria County Council, Andidrain, Allerdale Borough Council, Cockermouth Town Council and deal with water coming from three different directions, from the river, from the highways and rising ground water, so as you can visualize nothing has been simple or clear cut.

Lets now deal with the 2009 major flood, we must get it quite clear, no defences in the world would have stopped what happened that day, but what we can try to eliminate is continual flooding bringing misery to the residents of the town. worth noting that over the past ten years devasting flooding has occurred somewhere in the country;
Lewes Oct 2000,
Boscastle Aug 2004,
Carlisle Jan 2005,
Hull June.2007,
Morpeth Sep 2008,
Cockermouth Nov 2009
so you can see there is no rhyme or reason where and when its going to happen next, lets hope it never returns to Cockermouth.

Recent letters to the paper have inferred that given another major flood, the water would be trapped on the landward side of the defence…not so, as a major draindown structure has been constructed to overcome that very problem, that along with a three metre diameter pumping chamber complete with mains driven twin pumps, any water will clear away rapidly should the occasion arise, under normal circumstances the water will run away under gravity.

Then we have the issue of flooding caused by highway drainage, under the old system when the river was in flood the system stopped and the houses flooded, this has all been bypassed with the water
dropping into the pumping chamber; what about ground water? every time the river is in full flood the

land becomes saturated and eventually percolates through the floor of the houses, with french drains
behind the properties and in the road (works hopefully scheduled for 2011) this should lower the groundwater sufficiently to overcome this problem.

What else, well, we started off 10 months ago looking at a swale through Broomlands, but this did not give the required defence levels to satisfy the insurance companies, but it had some benefits, the Cockermouth Flood Action Group is still a firm believer in this scheme but as the funds available would only stretch to either a swale with 1:25 years protection or an embankment behind the Gote giving 1:100, the EA could not advocate spending nearly a million pounds on a scheme that would not adequately defend the area, so we agreed but still remain positive that one year we will see Broomlands being utilized for the flood relief of Cockermouth.

Gravel, aagh!!! that’s what we’ve been waiting to hear you all say, after the rapid removal of the gravel build up from Gote Bridge area last winter, other areas are being investigated for the annual maintenance programme so it’s a case of watch this space.

There still remains some work to be done in Cockermouth to give the added protection to the town that is required, recently CFAG were invited to a meeting to view proposals that are presently being worked upon.

CFAG has worked and will remain working closely with the Environment Agency and have moved mountains, raising in excess of £100,000 to fund a great deal of the works, rewritten the rule book in partnering and most of all enjoyed and appreciated working with the EA particularly when it brings rapid results such as this.

On the ground we are in the process of developing a much more robust warning system, in the event of impending flood, the EA have replaced all their gauging stations which feed data minute by minute on river levels to the control room at Penrith, the Group has access to this information, there is also an automatic telephone warning system to everyone who signs up, giving impending flood data, street flood wardens are being appointed around the town, a flood procedure on the ground will kick in, making sure all the pumps etc. are working correctly, all this to make Cockermouth a safer place to live and work

For those who want a more detailed understanding of the workings, once the contractors have gone in the New Year, I am proposing to conduct a “walkabout” on a Saturday afternoon in early 2011 to explain the Gote Road system in detail, that way you can rest assured and sleep at night, also the group is planning to hold a public meeting to explain and discuss where we are and what the future holds

Watch this space for an advert in the local paper stating a date for a “walkabout” and public meeting.

Mike Apperley,
Civil Engineering Advisor to CFAG

December 2010