Bolton Mill Caravan Site New Year Devastation

In this turbulent and uncertain world we all look for an ideal place in which to relax from time to time. Some find s sunny beach abroad while others find a picturesque secluded retreat somewhere in the countryside. People from all over the north west converge on Bolton during the lighter days and summer months to visit their caravans at the Bolton Mill Caravan Park…..well know for its solitude and tranquillity as well as its famous duck race held annually in aid of charity during the summer.

Graeme and Barbara Butterworth with their two children Elizabeth and Sally together with Chris, Graeme’s father, have run this successful site for many years. It is said that caravans have been on this land for over 70 years.

While there have been small floods in the past, previous experience did little to prepare the family for the sheer horror of the recent storms last Friday night and Saturday morning.


While the water in the river Eden rose only 5 inches in 5 hours at first, as the night darkened and the lights failed the water eventually rose in an almighty surge to a height of over 4 feet. ‘Water was actually coming through the walls’ said Barbara as she described the ordeal of the family on that night. Telephone calls to Greame’s brothers in Appleby gave some warning of the impending disaster but it took Chris and Martyn over one and a half hours, instead of a normal 15 minutes, to find a way to the Mill having to drive around by Cliburn to gain access as the main road and lane to the mill was so badly flooded.

By that time quite a lot of furniture and other essential stuff had been taken up to the second floor of this interesting old mill. ‘As time went by and in the blackness of the night, we were most concerned about the animals’ said Graeme. ‘The seven horses stabled some 150 yards from the house just could not be reached. We could hear them from the mill but were helpless to actually do anything to help.’ ‘The 70 strong herd of beef cattle in the sheds were also at the mercy of the elements too. Thankfully the whole stock survived including the pets all except for a number of chickens which were literally blown to the ground. Out of the 30 or so only 5 remain.

At those times when the power was on we could see the water rising up the stable doors. Looking out at the back it was just like a black ocean with waves being whipped up by the wind.

As the night continued we could hear tremendous bangs and crashes as the caravans were uprooted from their bases and sent hurtling against each other. A number of vans from the south part of the site ended up in a heap some 150 yards away at the far end of the site. Piles of clothes and kitchen utensils litter the site and small bicycles, once the delight of visiting children now lie semi-surrounded in sand and weeds.

One caravan is in total bits while others lie at a variety of strange angles as if replicating a set of fallen dominoes.

One might wonder how it is possible for people to recover from something like this but the Butterworth just know. Friends and Family!! We have been overwhelmed by the help and support of local neightbours. It’s really been amazing and we are so greateful for all their help and support. Among the many helpers have been Tony and Tina from the Eden Vale Inn, Bolton, who provided hot food and emergency rations. Mrs Judy Naylor (86) was very quick to respond to their needs providing hot soup and sandwiches and stew and dry clothes. They said that she had been down everyday. Peter Forrester came with a digger and levelled the roadway enabling us the get around much better. Took all day. Dealt with the stables.

Simon Fahy and Linda Sowerby helped with cleaning up the rooms of the house.

Other people from the village also including Alison Taylor from the farm opposite.

As the story of their plight unfolded it became obvious that much of the success in dealing with the disaster lay in family members having a specific role to play in dealing with the situation. Chris, Graeme’s 76 year old father has been looking after the stock while the rest of the family dealt with bringing the house back to normality. Elizabeth has been available when possible to help caravanners as they travel over to see the devastation. The youngest, Sally makes welcomed cups of tea for all those who are there helping to mop the floors and rearrange furniture.

One of their special stories is concerning their pets. Their favourite white cat which disappeared for some three days but now has returned and sits next to the fish tank which during the storm, fell from its lofty place into the intrusive water and floated from room to room as if looking for somewhere to reside. It is now back in its own place little different and just as welcome as before.

As Barbara says, when we have been to other parts of the country taking Liz and Sally to various riding events, it is always so nice to return to this idyllic place. It is our New Year challenge to return it to the dream we once knew.

Pictures - Mike Angelo Photography

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