When the Beast from the East roared across Cumbria

In 2018, an exceptional weather event occurred across the eastern side of Cumbria where heavy snowfalls and the Helm Wind combined to cause extreme snow drifts and arctic conditions, bringing the worst winter conditions to Cumbria many had ever known.

People in parts of east Cumbria literally had to dig their way out of the snow, as 10ft high snow drifts made roads impassable. Communities were cut-off for days and emergency relief was provided by Chinook helicopters. Royal Marine Commandos were drafted in and tasked with airlifting essential supplies of food, fuel and medicine.

Farmers were among the hardest hit as the brutal conditions caused catastrophic damage to farms in and around Alston Moor, Bewcastle and East Fellside. Sheep were buried in snow drifts, milk went uncollected and field boundaries were damaged. Additional costs faced by farmers included the cost of carcass collection, uninsured losses of livestock and higher lamb losses from ewes that spent many days under snow drifts.

The Storm Emma Relief Fund was set up thanks to donations from the herdyfund and Cumbria Community Foundation to relieve household hardship caused directly by the extreme weather event. Both farmers and non-farmers who had suffered hardship were eligible to apply for support.

Grants for farming households, which ranged from £100 to £1,000, depending on household circumstances, were administered by The Farmer Network Ltd to ensure that the maximum number of farming households affected by Strom Emma were reached. The Farmer Network was also able to provide additional assistance, such as signposting to other support etc.

Adam Day, Managing Director at The Farmer Network, said: “Some farmers lost over 60 in-lamb ewes and in two cases, losses of over 100 in-lamb ewes were reported. In the worst case, one farmer had 150 in-lamb ewes die in snowdrifts. These losses were not covered by insurance and often pregnant breeding ewes were worth between £120-£150 each. In addition carcass disposal costs ranged from £16-£20 per head. Many farmers also had considerable damage to dry stone walls and fences.”

In total, more than £30,000 was awarded to 83 households.