10.03.20. - Report and photos of the floods for 9th February 2020, 'Storm Ciara'.

  25.11.17. - Details of the flood on 22/23rd November that affected The Sands.

  06.07.17. - The creation of separate pages for each century after the page had simply become too big - to read about the floods in the 18th (main floods page), 19th, 20th and 21st century's follow the links below.

  12.05.17. - have added additional photos of the floods for each year (2009 + 2011 + 2015) and links to news footage and Youtube clips.

  12.06.16. - details of the 2007 flood, with a few further comments about the floods of 2004 and 2005

  21.02.16. - Commencement of new and dedicated page on 'The Floods of Appleby' - the section had become too large to be just contained within the 'Appleby' section.


  The historic town of Appleby lies in a loop of the river Eden in the Eden valley and in the relatively dry east of the county of Cumbria - it is a delightful town, set within beautiful countryside and is well worth a visit and/or used as a base to explore. You can now visit the castle (by guided tour at fixed times/appointment, speak with Tourist Information) and in equal time be within the national parks of the Lake District or Yorkshire Dales or the 'area of outstanding beauty' that is the northern Pennines.


  From my research, below are the years during which flooding is known to have occurred:

C18th C19th C20th C21st 1733 ? 1815 + 1903 2004 1771 1817 1912 2005 (x3) 1775 1819 1916 + 2007 1790 1820 1924 (x2?) 2009 1792 1822 1925 2011 1794 1829 1928 (x3?) 2015 (x2) 1831 1929 2017 1845 1930 (x2?) 2020 1851 1931 1852 (x2) 1936 1855 (x2) 1947 (x2?) 1856 1954 (x4?) 1861 1960 1868 1964 1869 1965 + 1874 + 1968 1883 1974 ~ 1888 1979 + 1890 1982 + 1891 +(x3) 1987 + 1892 1990 1894 + 1995 (x2) 1895 + 1896 + 1898 (x2) 1899
(+) Smith and Tobin 1979 - 'Topics in applied geography, human adjustment to the flood hazard'. (~) Environment Agency - 'Eden Catchment Flood Management Scoping Report (Oct' 2005) Years annotated (+)(~) - I have yet to find a formal record/account for these years and hence no details appear below. Years annotated (?) - 1733 could be an earlier year - the rest appear in duplicate/triplicate in Smith+Tobin's analysis and need to be confirmed as a year with multiple floods.

  The list above represents 79 different flooding events in 62 years.


  Below are some accounts of the various floods this century, those without an annotation are from my own research, the other sources of information are:

  ** are from an Environment Agency briefing note dated June 2010, although they don't quote their source

  But it is the newspapers and now the internet that are the most invaluable source with all of the events reported locally. As you would probably expect, the accounts of these floods becomes that bit more factual and certainly without the 'colour' of previous generations, particularly the newspaper reports. However, that little further into the century the different ways in which events can be reported is so much more varied; most phones contain a decent camera and the ability to take video footage - some links to this video footage are included with the reports below and indeed it is in some of these that accounts of the impacts that the floods had on individuals, families and the community are more succinct.

  The 21st century has certainly seen a 'flood rich' start to the century with several notable floods, in particular 'Desmond'.

  In total, since 2004, there has been nine floods in six separate years. This may not be the worst period of flooding in Appleby's history, but it is still amongst the most flood rich periods in the historical record.


Scenes of flooding in the town from 2015




    2004 - 3rd February    Dodgy sandbags?   (**)

  Reported as 'Feb 3rd – Approximately 10 properties on The Sands were affected, mainly through seepage through sandbags'.

  Additionally the report in the C+W Herald included: 'It burst its banks by around 3-30pm on Tuesday and The Sands side of the river, which still does not have protection from flooding, was badly hit. Roy Ashley Motors premises was immediately flooded, but staff there, forewarned from previous floods, had moved all the vehicles on to high ground and put machinery on to ramps to keep it out of harm’s way. Some water also made its way into the offices, but this was a smaller amount and largely soaked up by towels.

  The business did not appear to have sustained any lasting damage, but staff spent Wednesday pressure-washing the premises to get rid of all the silt brought up with the rising water. Appleby bowling green was also flooded to a depth of about two feet. Flood co-ordinator Norman Wood said: “It did get into the original bower as well and made an awful mess but it didn’t get into the main building ...'



    7th January 2005                        these floods became better known as the Carlisle floods

  The floods of 2005 would become the first of three significant events in Cumbria (along with Nov' 2009 and Dec' 2015) - but as normal, Appleby was the first to flood. The Environment Agency stated that 'The flow rates and flood water levels for this event were the highest on record.'

  Not as severe as those of December 2015, but the flooding in Carlisle was stated to be the worse since 1882. In total, 53 properties in Appleby were flooded and the official report published afterwards stated '... the majority of defences constructed (1995) were not over topped'.

  The Sands flooded at 2100 hrs, peaking at 0415 Hrs on the 8th at a depth of 1.2 meters and the depth of water in St. Lawrence church was quoted as 18 inches deep. One of the aspects of this storm that tended to be overlooked was just how windy it was. Along with the rainfall many trees were also blown over.

  Rainfall Totals: at Mill Hill in the 2 day period from 0900 hrs on the 6th, 79 mm of rain fell and this was considered to have a return of 1:30 years. In Ravenstonedale the fall was 146.0 mm.

  The C+W Herald provided the following account:

  The flood prevention barriers were brought into use but these are to protect the Chapel Street area, leaving everywhere else vulnerable. Environment Agency staff were quick to provide sandbags and many local people helped distribute them, but by 8-30pm the floodwater was overriding the sandbag walls and a couple of hours later the Sands area was under 3ft of water. The ground floors of shops and homes were being flooded and two people had to be rescued from one of the shops by lifeline, with both rescuers and rescued wearing life jackets while wading through waist deep flood water. By now the actual town centre Boroughgate area was being affected and flood water was building up in Bridge Street, High Wiend and Chapel Street.

  Remorselessly the water, unable to drain away, continued to rise behind the flood barriers and by 2am it became clear that the residents of Chapel Street would have to be moved from their homes. Appleby mayor Frank Harland, who had been a constant presence helping out in the town centre from early in the evening, decided to open the town’s public hall to accommodate those who had been moved from their homes. By 3am the floodwater was only two inches from the top of the flood defence barriers and the constant rainwater was adding to the river’s flow, causing more problems for Bridge Street, Low Wiend and Chapel Street. Homes were now becoming badly flooded so it was decided to evacuate Chapel Street and members of the fire and rescue service took residents to the public hall.

  Local butcher Norman Dowding had been helping out in the town centre and he now turned his talents to making a great many bacon sandwiches to go along with the hot drinks being provided to those in the hall. Then came a further blow to the already suffering residents, the rescue workers and those people who had just come along to help, as all electricity went off. Around 6-30 a.m. on Saturday morning most of the people who had been sheltering in the public hall had decided to return home, but now it was easy to see the terrible devastation caused by the water.

  On the Sands all the riverside shops and properties and the Sands Methodist Church had been flooded, while in the town centre St. Lawrence’s Church was also affected. There was a fear that the recently restored church organ, probably the oldest in the country still in regular use, might be damaged.

  And then at the end of 2005 parts of the town flooded again - on several occasions.

  On Saturday 8th October one day’s continuous torrential rain brought real concern that flooding would again affect Appleby’s vulnerable properties, particularly in the Sands area of the town. By the early afternoon, although the River Eden was coping with the heavy waters, the street drains were proving to be totally inadequate. Soon a strong flow of water was coming up into the Sands from the street water drains and at least two low lying homes had the dreadful problem of water flowing in.

  At the start of November on a Wednesday evening and for the second time in a fortnight, flash floods overrode blocked drains in the town, with the worst hit properties being on the Sands, including The Grapes pub, along with the Royal Oak, Bongate, which was forced to close.

  This flooding came only two weeks after a similar incident in which the drains could not cope with the volume of rain water and it was feared that there was a collapsed drain in the system or a blockage created by the January river floods.

  Water began to enter properties around 4-45pm, but whilst not particularly deep, the water was said to be a “filthy and smelly sludge” and left considerable damage.


Some of the flooding in the town - January 2005    -    and map showing the extent of the area flooded




    2007 - 12th January    community effort keeps floods at bay.

  Minor flooding on this occasion, reported thus in the C+W Herald:

  APPLEBY Grammar School was on stand-by in case it was needed as a flood evacuation centre on Thursday after the River Eden burst its banks in the town. The Sands area was worst affected, but while water got into a few commercial properties near the bridge, “no significant damage was caused”, according to firefighters who pumped flood water away from the area.

  The submerged road next to The Sands was closed by police at about 10-30am and remained closed for four hours. The river level reached its peak height at about 12 noon, causing water to enter about six commercial properties. One of the worst affected businesses, along with the takeaway restaurant Pizza Roma, was the Texaco garage where there was a couple of feet of water at the workshop front.

    However, Roy Ashley, the sales manager, said: “It’s not been too bad this time. The fuel is all sealed up and the showroom and office have not been hit.” He vowed that the garage would be back in business by yesterday, weather permitting, and thanked the police for allowing him to tuck new cars away at the rear of the police station across the road.

  Adrian Holme, Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service group manager, said a pre-existing plan came together which centred around limiting damage to property. An appliance from Appleby was involved in pumping water from three affected properties, including Bridge End Antiques, while barriers of sand bags were erected at various locations to provide makeshift flood defences. Firefighters wore new dry suits while carrying out the emergency pumping work.

  Inspector Lee Skelton, of Cumbria police, said their main concerns during the operation, which began with the sounding of the flood siren, were public safety and the protection of property. “We have to plan for the worst case scenario,” said Insp. Skelton. “That includes touching base with the grammar school about a flood reception centre if we have to start evacuating people from their homes and that was on stand-by.”

  However, there were also claims that sand bags did not arrive in the town quickly enough. Water was lapping at the doors of many properties before the sand bags were delivered. In response, an Eden District Council spokesman said the authority received an initial warning concerning Eamont Bridge at 6-45am on Thursday and immediately mobilised its contractor to sand bag properties at risk. This was completed by 8am. “The flood warning for Appleby was received at 7-45am and the sand bagging procedure was instigated at this time with the council’s contractor on site sand bagging in Appleby at 8-15am, before the river was expected to break its banks at 9am,” he said.

  The river overflowed at The Sands at 9-30am, flooding the highway. The road was closed by the police, adding to the difficulties of sand bagging further properties. “The flooding prevented the sand bagging of properties on the north side of The Sands due to the speed that water levels rose, resulting in the closure of the road,” said the spokesman.

  David Maclean, MP for Penrith and the Border, has been in touch with the Environment Agency and Eden District Council about the flooding in Appleby. He said: “Appleby is flooding far too frequently. Plans are in the pipeline for flood prevention systems to guard against one in 20-year floods, but Appleby seems to be flooding every other year. We need those flood prevention plans accelerated and every effort made to prevent further flooding this weekend.” There are calls for a central sand bagging station to be located at Appleby, rather than Penrith, because of the town’s high flood risk.



    2009 - 18-19th November

  This was the first 'unprecedented' flooding event in Cumbria and whilst Carlisle didn't flood, the Lakes District was hit hard. Further east, we may have endured a couple of grim days, but the impacts were fairly insignificant compared to those at the likes of Kendal, Keswick and Cockermouth, which included the death of a police officer at Workington when a bridge collapsed.


Typical scenes along The Sands during the flood

   A video of the floods is also available at:   'FLOODS ON YOU-TUBE'   



    2011 - 8th December    concert cancelled.

  On the 8th December a rising river Eden caused the early closure of schools, not wanting to have children stranded on the wrong side of the bridge which was subsequently closed and it also caused the cancellation of the towns Christmas carol concert which had been due to take place that night.

  A video of the floods is also available at:  'FLOODS ON YOU-TUBE'




    2015 - 4-6th December     The Devastation of 'Desmond'.


  Up to late October it had been a dry autumn, but then the rain arrived! The end of October was wet and was then followed by a very wet November. By the time we arrived at December the ground was saturated and the rivers were full. Put simply, the events of the weekend of 4-6th December were genuinely unprecedented and no matter what level of prevention may have been taken, flooding was inevitable.

  When it comes to the weather, 'Unprecedented' is an overused word, but this time it really did fit the event and the grading of this being a 'Critical Incident' by the police was no over reaction. Record amounts of rain fell over the few days and as is the norm', Appleby was the first to flood and then later in the month, whilst not as bad, it flooded again!

  Nowadays with 24 hour news and various forms of social media, any such event gets reported immediately and on the www there are many accounts of these floods. Any search of 'Appleby Floods' will bring up an array of articles, YouTube videos, etc, (some of which I include below), but here I shall just concentrate on a few basic details.

  With the amount of rain that fell and using the overused terminology of the time 'onto already saturated ground' there was only ever going to be one outcome. I drove through Appleby at 0600 hrs that morning to get to work and the river still had a few feet to go before it breached its banks, but it didn't take much longer.

  The flooding caused by Desmond was terrible with over 200 properties flooded and which was quoted as the worst since 1954 and images of chairs floating along The Sands in some ways came to testify the impact of the floods.

  Below are the rainfall totals for the Desmond event from Appleby, the data obviously comes from Judith Mounsey at Mill Hill and I compare it to some other local totals:


Mill Hill Aisgill M.Meaburn Shap Village Kirkby Thore Orton 3rd Dec 22.4 31.9 30.8 37.7 18.0 29.4 4th Dec 50.3 43.7 63.8 97.4 35.2 95.2 5th Dec 61.6 94.9 122.4 165.8 44.2 137.6 Totals 134.3 170.5 217.0 300.9 97.4 262.2


  The impacts were great, apart from the 200 flooded properties, the bridge over the Eden was closed due to safety fears and this effectively divided the town into two - and the detour to get from one side to the other was a long one. With just the one primary school in the town some children had rather a long journey. The bridge finally re-opened on the 14th.

  But then the rain didn't stop after Desmond and December with 382.1 mm (Mill Hill, Appleby) became the wettest ever month in the entire Appleby dataset which commenced in June 1856 - and the result? More flooding.

  December 2015 will live long in the memory and as one resident quite succinctly described it "a simply tiring and exhausting month".

    A selection of news footage of the floods is also available at:   'BBC FOOTAGE'  and   'SKY NEWS ON YOU-TUBE'

  And the floods stayed in the news over the following days and this was one such report on the immediate aftermath: BBC NEWS REPORT

  Prince Charles visited the town on the 21st to see the clear up from Desmond for himself and then, as already mentioned, on the 22nd yet more heavy rain brought yet more flooding, this time affecting 40 properties.

  It was then quite understandable that the term "They're back, everybody's exhausted" which one resident used, came to represent the feelings of the town as a whole following a truly horrible time.

  BBC news footage of this later flood can be seen at: BBC NEWS FOOTAGE



    2017 - 22nd/23rd November

  The town didn't quite manage to go two years from Desmond without another flood. This flood only affected The Sands, but properties did have waters enter them, but this was the first test for the 'Appleby Emergency Response Group' (AERG) and despite a fairly late update of a flood alert to a flood warning, it seems to have gone quite well.

  November had been very dry for the first 19 days, with a series of low pressure systems arriving from the Atlantic to give rain on the 20th-21st, but this was not at all heavy. A new depression arrived in the early hours (0500 hrs) of the 22nd and the day saw a period of heavy rain before petering out late in the evening (54.5 mm was recorded at Maulds Meaburn).

  This flood is now the 68th (known) since 1815 that has flooded at least one property and it brought the frequency of flooding in the town down from just a fraction over 1:3 yrs to one in every 2.97 years in that time frame!

  Below is the account from the Cumberland and Westmorland Herald from the following weekend.


Typical scenes along The Sands during the flood



    2020 - 9th February    Storm Ciara

  There was a general feeling in the town that this time 'We got away with it this time' - February 2020 was an uneasy month, the wettest February on record with several named storms, Ciara and then a week later, Dennis. Whilst Ciara brought floods to the town, the threat of further floods was never far away, but whilst the river did rise onto the road at The Sands during Dennis, there was no further damage to properties and hence just the one flood is counted for the historical record.

  The issue of the 'Doomgate Culvert' again reared its head, this causing further flooding in the town away from The Sands.

  Heavy rainfall and strong winds visited the whole of the UK courtesy of 'Storm Ciara' on the 8th February, continuing into the 9th. By mid morning The Eden had topped its banks on The Sands and flooding resulted. There was also some surcharging of the Doomgate Culvert creating slight issues with surface water in the vicinity of Pigney's and Broad Close.

  The rain, which had started about 5 p.m. on the 8th, abated by mid morning of the 9th and by the evening The Eden was back within its banks - rainfall totals for this event are: Appleby (Mill Hill) ??? mm and nearby there was 89.6 mm at Maulds Meaburn.

  The following is an account from Jim Chalmers, Chairman of the AERG:

  "In addition to those properties that flooded on The Sands, there were two houses on Chapel Street and two on Holme Street that experienced some flooding during Storm Ciara. I have to say though that it was a near miss that properties on Bridge Street did not experience flooding - the flood water level in the graveyard was marginally short of the height of the wall behind them. A lucky escape but worrying for those owners and tenants of the properties. Had the wall height been exceeded the likelihood is that the town centre would have experienced some flooding as happened during Storm Desmond.

  There was no flooding of properties during Storm Dennis as far as I'm aware although flood water did come onto The Sands and lapped up close to The Methodist Church which our Group evacuated as a precaution. On Saturday just gone, the water came over slightly onto the pavement but there was nothing of any impact to the road or properties."

  The following is the news report as it appeared in the C+W Herald:

  "The Appleby flood siren was activated around 9am on Sunday as the level of the River Eden rapidly rose, breaking its banks on to The Sands an hour later. Members of Appleby Emergency Response Group, an organisation set up in the wake of the 2015 Storm Desmond floods, had already been out for hours — helped by many volunteers from the community — alerting people to the impending danger and offering assistance.

  In the hours that followed, the river continued to rise, peaking at 4.15m at 3pm. This was fewer than 60cm lower than levels reached during Storm Desmond — which topped at 4.72m — homes and businesses along The Sands were again awash.

  Water flooded on to the town’s cricket and football pitches and the bowling green and affected a small number of properties in Chapel Street and businesses in Bridge Street.

  As the river raged, authorities were forced to close St Lawrence’s Bridge, again echoing what happened during Storm Desmond, and bringing more problems for residents as the town was split in two until it was reopened at 1pm on Monday. Jim Chalmers, chairman of AERG, said the level of flooding had taken residents by surprise and had overtopped some flood defences in homes along The Sands.

  He levelled criticism at the Environment Agency for their lack of action in building flood defences after Storm Desmond — feelings that were echoed by others in Appleby.

  “The disappointing thing is we have been saying this for four-and-a-half years but the Environment Agency has failed to do anything in the town. The earliest opportunity they say they have is 2021 which will be five-and-a-half years after Storm Desmond and that’s the real issue for us.

  “While there has been nothing done, we have had another Storm Desmond-esque event and here we are in the same boat. It will accentuate people’s problems with the Environment Agency — people will see they have suffered and have had no support.”

  He also levelled criticism at Eden District Council and Cumbria police. “The flood warning was 9am but the first official presence was 2-3pm on Sunday afternoon and they only stayed for an hour. There was no-one in charge controlling or co-ordinating the response in the town.

  “It makes us feel as a community we are low down the priority list and not being given the level of support we should have.”

  He added that plans were meant to have been put in place for a reception centre to be set up during flood events, at Appleby Grammar School, but authorities were nowhere to be seen and instead AERG had to set up a makeshift base at Appleby Primary School where they co-ordinated the help effort.

  Mr Chalmers praised members of the Appleby community for their resilience as Storm Ciara hit and for the way so many helped others in their hour of need.

  A prime example of this was Kenny Potts, who used a digger from the family business, F. S. Potts and Son, to transport a Cumbria Health On-Call doctor through flood water to access a patient, before returning the medic to dry land. The Potts building yard and premises in Bongate were again flooded by Storm Ciara, along with the former Grapes pub, owned by the family, on The Sands.

  Hugh Potts, a town councillor who has been lobbying authorities to carry out flood resilience work in Appleby for many years, said they had no help from the Environment Agency who had “abandoned The Sands”.

  “I was told point blank they won’t help The Sands because there’s not enough people to balance the cost, but one person should have as much right as 20.

  “We were told at the last meeting with the Environment Agency that it would be £6.5 million to protect The Sands — in the big scheme what is that to Boris Johnson’s government?”

  Peter Metcalfe, a member of Appleby Bowling Club, said their main building had flood water two feet deep inside, but thanks to extensive flood resilience work they had done to the building previously, around 90 per cent of fixtures and fittings were saved.

  Appleby Cricket Club, where the pavilion was only opened last summer after being rebuilt following Storm Desmond, also weathered Storm Ciara well. Club chairman Ernie Brabbins said the specially-designed building had been undamaged by the floods. The pitch was under four feet of water but had drained well thanks to flood resilience work carried out and using a pump. Around 100 metres of the perimeter fencing was damaged.

  Appleby Football Club saw its pitch flooded but the clubhouse managed to keep waters out. Jock Nugent, club chairman, said although the pitch was flooded it had left less debris than in Storm Desmond.

  Eden District Council and the contractor who carried out re-seeding of the pitch in 2019 was due to inspect the pitch as soon as possible to see what work needs to be done before it can be back in use.

  Firefighters were in the town for a short period on Sunday afternoon when they were called to rescue a man who became trapped on the bank of the River Eden after slipping down from the Holme Farm footpath. Fire crews from Kirkby Stephen, Shap and Carlisle used ropes and pulleys to rescue the man as he clung on precariously above the raging river. He was said to have suffered minor head injuries and mild concussion.

  Despite coming under fire locally, the Environment Agency issued a statement on the recovery effort saying its teams had been on the ground in affected communities, including Appleby and Shap, since the first bout of heavy and persistent rain over the weekend."


The Sands under water following Storm Ciara - February 2020    -    the 'new' Co-Op under construction towards the top right




    What, No Floods!

  But then the occasional oddity comes up - in the Appleby dataset (commenced 1856) 2013-14 is the second wettest winter in Appleby and there was no flooding! So in itself, it does not always follow that exceptionally wet winters will always see some flooding, it is so much more complicated than that.


   © Darren Rogers 2016

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