'Flood-beating' bookshops share in 'the spirit of Christmas and of Cumbria'

'Flood-beating' bookshops share in 'the spirit of Christmas and of Cumbria'

Cumbria booksellers are open for business in spite of the area seeing three bouts of flooding in less than a month. 

Rivers burst their banks in Appleby, Glenridding, Keswick and Kendal this week (21st December), further devastating homes and businesses.

Philip Stergess at independent bookshop Bookends Keswick said: “The shop is OK, we’ve just about made it. It came close but it didn’t quite [reach us]: we have two steps up from the road that just about saved us. Keswick is a bit subdued, but heading in the right direction."

In Appleby, while "most of the businesses in the main town have been devastated", according to Barry McKay, owner of McKay’s Rare Book store, but aside from a "small disruption to business" his own store was unaffected since it was located on top of a hill.

"It's been a humbling experience," said McKay. "There's been a bit of a disruption to business, but that’s nothing compared to people’s homes being washed down the river."

A secondhand bookshop owned by The Rotary Club, situated in the local community centre on Chapel Street, however, was not so fortunate. McKay, who helps out there at weekends, said it had "been washed away". He said: "We shall be restocking in the new year with the generosity of others... I’ve been round there, looked at it ensconced and watched young men chuck all our stock into skips, which has all been donated by people in the town and we sell for charity."

The New Bookshop in Cockermouth, which was ravaged by flooding in early December, managed to avoid further damage; MP Anna Soubry hailed it "the wonderful flood beating New Bookshop" on Twitter, but according to its owner, Catherine Hetherington, "it's going to take a while" before the shop is back on its feet.

Hetherington told The Bookseller: “We’ve not been flooded this time. But three weeks ago we were flooded really badly. We’re just trading at the moment in a bit of a shabby way. We need to close in the New Year for some months...Everything needs to come out to be dried and refitted. It’s going to take a while.

"People have been ever so supportive and kind. We’ve had a really busy couple of weeks where we’ve been open since the flood. We’ve just sort of patched things up and got on with it for now. The local community has been great. But we know it’s just a temporary fix."

Commenting on impact of the “logistical nightmare” caused by the floods, John Haldon, owner of Wearings Bookshop in Ambleside, said the “downturn in trade” had been “horrendous”. And, as well as stalling trade, the flooding also stalled deliveries, taking Wearing Bookshop's wholesalers on a 150-mile detour over the course of a round trip.

Haldon said: "Although we’ve not been physically affected by the floods, having the roads closed three times in the last month has affected trade. The fact that the main road from the north – the A591 – is closed is stopping anyone coming  from the north, so Ambleside is effectively in a cul-de-sac. Physically we weren’t affected like some others. It’s about footfall. We’re roughly 55% down on the first three weeks of December [compared] to last year.

"The holiday period over Christmas is also usually busy, but so many people have cancelled. Now people perceive the lakes to be problematic with flood warnings coming week on week."

However, shining through was "a great community spirit in Carlisle, Keswick and Kendal", commented Haldon, "where people rallied round, and the town hall was full of blankets and clothing to help people in the short term."

On Twitter, Lake District based shepherd Herdwick Shepherd, author of The Illustrated Herdwick Shepherd (Particular Books), tweeted: "Met a lady yesterday who'd driven from Sheffield to do her Christmas shopping in Grasmere because wanted to support the area after floods"; which Bookends Keswick prefaced before retweeting with: "That's the spirit of Christmas and of Cumbria!"

A Cumbrian author, Richard Simpson (pen name J J Salkeld) is even auctioning off three character names in the next book of his Natural Detective crime series to raise money for the Cumbria Flood Appeal. The novels, published by Herringbone Press, feature a group of detectives based in Kendal.

He told the Westmorland Gazette yesterday: "The three highest bids received by New Year’s Eve would get the next three characters I write named after them. People won’t find out what character they’ll be until the book is released – it might be a drug dealer, a victim of crime, a corrupt copper or a good character."

Picture: The New Bookshop's cafe raises money for the flood appeal.