By Darryn Van Der Merwe
Our last evening service was on the Friday 4th December 2015. The weather was quite horrific that evening. I recall almost being defeated by the wind and rain cycling home. I did think that the weather would calm down overnight, but it didn’t. The rain continued throughout the night.
The next morning at 10am, the River Kent was extremely high. Head Chef Robert Stacey (and our friends and neighbours on Wildman Street) battled the elements to sandbag the building following local authority warnings. We did everything we could to keep the rising waters out with sand bags, but we were fighting a losing battle.
As the water levels continued to rise, myself and the team agreed that things were going to get worse before they got better and we moved what furniture we could upstairs and propped up tables and other large furniture on breeze blocks as high as possible.
By 4.30pm the water in the restaurant was knee high and started entering the restaurant through the walls and up through the floor into our Roman Road Room and kitchen. It was devastating to watch. Particularly as our recently refurbished kitchen submerge into the flood waters and every single piece of equipment became ruined. Conscious that there was little more that we could do, we evacuated the restaurant following the polices advice in the hope that the rain would stop sometime soon. Unfortunately it didn’t!
It was absolutely heartbreaking to see the amount of devastation caused by the floods and the team is still in shock. We were all stocked up and ready to serve our Christmas and New Year menus in the weeks ahead. Head Chef Robert and his team had put a lot of work and effort in to the menus and we were looking forward to welcoming our guests over the festive period.
The Castle Dairy is currently in the process of drying out, which is going to take a considerable amount of time. Due to the nature of the building, we are restricted from using mechanical heaters to dry out the restaurant. The building was built using lime plaster to the walls and the oak beams would suffer if dried out rapidly. Furthermore, the safety of the building could be compromised if guidelines are not followed due to the age of the property.
In the meantime, the kitchen (which was flooded with contaminated water) and bar have both been ripped out and are in the process of being redesigned. We are hoping to install new lavatories too. Despite the damage, we remain optimistic and are looking forward to reopening our newly refreshed restaurant – that will hopefully be equally, if not more, successful than ever before!
Whilst the restaurant remains closed, the Castle Dairy team is planning lots of training and development activity to further improve our skills and knowledge. We shall also be holding a calendar of charity events at Kendal College to raise money for the Cumbria Flood Recovery Fund. Keep an eye on our website for details. We hope to see you there.
Thank you for your continued support. I will update you again soon.
Darryn Van Der Merwe
Castle Dairy Restaurant & Art Gallery