IF you thought where you work was busy at Christmas, spare a thought for postmen and women. In Kendal, all leave has been cancelled for the last three weeks, its staff will deliver four times the amount it usually does and it is not uncommon for 5am starts.
THE temperature outside is below freezing and there is a crunch of grit as postmen and postwomen march backwards and forwards filling red vans at the back of Kendal’s Stricklandgate Post Office.
Inside the sorting centre, Fairytale of New York is playing on the radio.
Clad in a hat, postman Dave Cartwright, 43, from Kendal, is pushing a large trolley as he prepares for his round.
His beat is not quite the Postman Pat country of Longsleddale, immortalised by one-time Kendal resident, John Cunliffe, but is one of the most scenic rounds on the patch — Selside and Skelsmergh.
Dave, a postman since he was 17, is wearing shorts but will be out for hours in the freezing cold delivering to 240 properties.
“I wear them all year,” he explains. “Long trousers get wet in wet weather. When you’re in waterproofs all day they stay wet and when you sit in the van in them the seat gets wet.”
Christmas is what Kendal delivery office manager, Robert Smith, 31, calls ‘peak volume.’ Emails may have dented the numbers of letters we send, but the growth in online shopping means parcel deliveries have gone up.
This centre delivers to 17,000 houses and 2,000 businesses across Kendal, Burneside, Staveley, Natland, Endmoor, Oxenholme, Levens and Lowgill, among others.
All mail posted in Kendal gets collected by the staff here, then sent down to Preston in large wagons and then any local post is returned to Kendal for re-distribution.
It’s not just delivering that takes place here, it’s collecting too. The centre collects from postboxes across the area - some of the most rural in the country - businesses and half-a-dozen post offices.
Mr Smith, a father-of-four, oversees 76 staff in Kendal alongside line manager Karl McQuillan and says 99.9 per cent of what comes in, goes out.
“Before I worked here, I always took the post for granted without understanding the complexity of the operation,” said Mr Smith. “You see your postman or women coming down the path with your letters but I have a lot more respect for them now. They brave dogs, bad weather and increasing mail volumes.”
The Kendal delivery centre is partially cornered off into sections, with each of these sections a different round. Round 25 is Kendal Parks.
Graham Webster, 62, from Helmside Road, Oxenholme, is working with Ryan Mason, 26, as they busily assign letters and parcels to the round.
Letters are slid into slots replicating the house numbers of particular streets, like Haliburton Road, Kendal Parks Road and Fulmar Drive.
Asked what Christmas is like, Mr Webster says: “It’s extremely busy. There are more packages and the increase in business has come from people buying online.”
Post woman Angela Kitchen, 39, of Heron Hill, is preparing for her first Christmas with the Royal Mail.
“I love it,” says the mum of three. “I’ve noticed it’s picked up more and more as we get nearer Christmas.” To my irrational excitement, my own post for the day is located, but I hand it back.
It’s my credit card statement and a tax bill for my other half.
“Can someone lose this please,” I joke.