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Sunday, 20 April 2014

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House gardens in Keswick washed away by swollen river

The rain had pummelled Cumbria all weekend but the River Greta in Keswick seemed to pose no threat.

Keswick gardens photo
Gardens were washed away

The people living nearby in Penrith Road had seen it flow with far greater force on many occasions – and it was nowhere near the level that brought the devastating floods in November 2009.

There were no obvious danger signs for the people living in the row of four terraced houses which were built there just seven years ago.

But as she got her two year old son Robbie ready for the day yesterday morning, Sue Howarth, 36, heard rocks shifting in the river nearby.

The back of the family’s end terrace house has a small garden area, looking over the river and Upper Fitz Park.

On sunny days, Sue and her partner Kevin Frampton, 32, would often sit relaxing in their garden, chatting as Robbie played happily nearby.

Yesterday started normally enough but at 7.30am, after Kevin had left for work, events took a dramatic turn.

“The next moment there was an almighty earthquake sound and I rushed to the window and saw it,” said Sue.

“Almost the whole of the back garden had disappeared into the river. The garden was 6ft wide – from the house wall to the riverside wall.

“It just disappeared.

“I was absolutely terrified; I grabbed Robbie and ran straight out of the back door. Kevin was at work but I rang him and told him he had to get back right away.

“We normally sit out there whenever we can.

“When we looked over the edge, we could see the rubble, and Robbie’s paddling pool, and our table and chairs.

“I just dread to think what would have happened if we had been out there when it happened, or if Robbie had been out there playing.”

The family have rented the house for 18 months, having moved there from one at the end of the same terrace.

Sue said: “These houses have brought me nothing but terror: I was in the other one down the street when we had the Keswick floods.

“We were evacuated but in the end I decided to stay because I was pregnant. The strange thing is that the river was not that high yesterday.”

Neighbour Dawn Branson, 40, was getting ready for work when she heard a loud rumble, and presumed it was the noise of passing traffic and so ignored it.

“Then Sue knocked on the door and asked if I’d seen the back of the house. When I did, I just said: ‘Oh my God!’”

She could only stare in disbelief at the view from her back door, now just 2ft from the edge of a 20ft drop into the turbulent brown water of the River Greta.

“The Environment Agency told us to grab just a few essentials and get out.

“It’s been a big shock. It’s still sinking in. Even if they declare that it’s safe I don’t want to live in a house where I can’t go out the back.”

Dawn’s husband Mike, 45, was among the Keswick Lions volunteers who helped flood victims in the town in 2009.

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