As I sit in the workroom of the Jerwood Centre, I am distracted by the way the water is streaming down the sides of Silver How. Unmapped tricklets and ghylls that catch the sun on a bright day are now bands you can make out from this side of Grasmere through the sheets of rain. I have never found the phrase 'sheets of rain' an accurate one before now.
The village is flooding. We have even more bodies of water than before, and roads are rivers. Luckily, or more likely with intent, Dove Cottage was built on a raise. But this is truly something I have never experienced. It has washed back memories of Enid Blyton tales where children battle through soup like floods to save the farm. And I remember how back home the end of our avenue would flood, and my best friend would join me building a small toll bridge for pedestrians from bricks and planks. But this is real and dangerous, threatening the safety of people and buildings.
It seems appropriate that I'm currently reading Jonathan Bate's 'Romantic Ecology'. Bate reminds the reader how the weather and seasons of Wordsworth's poetry are not only geographically-specific, but also act as markers that allows us to gauge the way our climate has changed since then. Dorothy's journals make no mention of flooding, but this description is worth reproducing:
Wednesday morning 9th December 1801
... The river came galloping past the Church as fast as it could come & when we got into Easedale we saw Churn milk force like a broad stream of snow. At the little foot-Bridge we stopped to look at the company of rivers which came hurrying down the vale this way & that; it was a valley of streams & Islands, with that great waterfall at the head & lesser falls in different parts of the mountains coming down to these Rivers...
A Mr Ostle, who lived in Northern Cumbria, kept a journal and recorded this incident that is as close to the conditions - and people's reaction - that I can find:
Weather very stormy, heavy winds and large floods. Fields all covered with water. Different times there was the most water upon the ground since the memory of the oldest man in the holme. The floods they have done a great deal of damage in many places. I think it was the nearest the flood in the days of Noah.
Unhappy the land in need of heroes
20 hours ago