20th February 2014
Rain showers, chilly winds and a muddy field didn’t dampen the spirits of the people who took part in Saturday’s Big Sleep in aid of Cumbria Community Foundation’s Winter Warmth Appeal.
Aged between seven and 70, there were 170 people who spent the night in sleeping bags and tents beside the Low Wood Hotel in Windermere.
And so far the total amount of money to help keep older Cumbrians warm this winter is almost £74,000.
The youngest sleeper was 7-year-old Eleanor Parry, from Brampton, who camped out in a tent with her dad Richard and the oldest was 70-year-old Ian Tomlinson, from Kendal, who camped with his wife Chris. One girl wont forget her transformation into a teenager, Nina Brendling from Ambleside went to bed aged 12 and woke up on her 13th birthday!
There were tents of all shapes and sizes, others took on the full challenge of sleeping in a bivi bag and the High Sheriff, Diana Matthews, brought a camp bed and fashioned a shelter out of two big umbrellas.
Last minute glitches were overcome in true British style with everyone pulling together to make things happen in spite of the challenges. Nevil Jeffery, Manager of the Low Wood Bay Hotel, had already agreed to support the event by providing hot soup and bacon rolls – but when the burger van pulled out at the eleventh hour he set about making huge pots of stew for the campers. For some, his Cowboy Stew was a real highlight.
Andrew Beeforth, Chief Executive of Cumbria Community Foundation, said: “I was woken by an almost full moon shining down on me, the view of the lake was stunning, a really magical experience. There was a great atmosphere at the Big Sleep, a real sense of pulling together for a good cause. Everyone I spoke to said the experience really hit home how difficult it is for older people across Cumbria to keep warm in the winter. Hopefully, when the sponsorship all comes in we’ll be closer to that £100,000 target.”
Stuart Hyde, former Chief Constable, said: “I thought it was a well organised event, good fun, cold in places, warmed up by the warmth of the people that were there.”
Tom Foster, from Sellafield, completed the challenge with his son Mick, a serving soldier, he said: “Mick said it was the best night’s sleep he has had in weeks. Usually he gets woken up for a training mission to wade through a swamp in the dark. I found it much more difficult. I was a bit cold and uncomfortable and it gave me first hand experience of what he does and also it drove home that there are people who are that cold on a regular basis. We’ve raised almost £300.”
Ben Berry, from the Low Wood Bay Hotel, said: “It was good fun. I was a bit better prepared for it this year after nearly dying on Stickle Tarn last year. I had better equipment, I knew how cold it was last time. And I am glad Nevil came through with the supper.”
The reason Cumbria Community Foundation runs this annual appeal is simple – every winter around 300 elderly people in Cumbria die because of the effects of the cold weather. They have to choose between heating their homes and eating a meal. The Winter Warmth Fund keeps older Cumbrians safe and warm.