Winter sunlight fires the windows along the riverside walkway below Miller Bridge. The novelty of sunlight, welcome after weeks and weeks of darkness, of unremitting rain and floods. A sigh of relief and a brief respite. Boxing Day saw relentless rain, but the most intense rainfall struck Lancashire and Yorkshire. In Kendal there are sandbags in readiness to protect shops and homes, although skips full of ripped-out flooring tell they’ve already suffered significant damage. For the first time in weeks the low winter sun glosses the river and a flotilla of goosander swims below the waterside cafe, closed after flooding.
The weir below Stramongate Bridge featured in the TV news again and again, whenever the River Kent threatened to burst its banks. Here, I photographed standing waves when the river looked most dangerous. Today, I catch a goosander at the moment of making the plunge down the weir.
Wildman Street looks desolate, a real mess. At a time of flood you become aware of subterranean watercourses, hidden between houses, below the streets, chanelled out of sight until they burst forth. Sleddale Hall, 17 century manor house- an art and antiques center, has what looks like a storm drain beside it.
Across the road, Castle Dairy- that lovely restaurant in a building dating back to the 14 century, looks forlorn Closed due to flooding, for the foreseeable future. There's a note of hopelessness. A miasmal fug weeps on window panes all along Wildman Street. How do you dry out all these flooded premises!
Weird weather. The jet stream stuck over the north of England and successive Atlantic fronts dumping record rainfall, first over Cumbria, now over Lancashire and Yorkshire. Exceptional rainfall, exceptionally mild for December. And today it's so still. The sun is out and so is half of Kendal. Never seen so many folk out on Scout Scar for a walk. We've been cooped up, a woman says. Cooped up for far too long. We know there's more foul weather heading our way so today we break out. There's a hint of definition on the fells as they emerge from cloud and rain. There's blue sky. Everyone remarks on the crowds drawn here by light after so much darkness. The photographs don't tell all the darkness because noone photographs endless sheet of rain and an absence of light. It isn't visual. And in a season of good cheer we have to reach for something beyond the darkness.
As walkers are drawn to the Mushroom Shelter, like a magnet, so I keep returning to photograph the snaking channel of Helsington Pool and the barn on road from Brigsteer across the Lyth Valley. The latest rain, the Boxing Day downpours, have taken out that section of the road approaching the barn, again. Unusual today to see reflections in the floodwater.
Jan Wiltshire is a nature writer living in Cumbria. She also explores islands and coast and the wildlife experience. (See Home and My Books.)