Ironbridge pub ravaged by floods looking ship-shape again after overhaul
The flooding of February and March devastated homes and businesses across the county, and none more so than an idyllic riverbank pub.
The Boat Inn at Jackfield has seen more than its fair share of flooding over the years, but the storms of February and March were something else, leaving a scene of devastation that the landlady and landlord, Jenny Alexander and Alan Cambridge, worried would be beyond repair.
Fast forward five months, through a pandemic, living in a hotel and a caravan, and Jenny and Alan have reopened the doors to a fully refurbished pub – and one that has been renovated to make sure it can cope with future flooding.
Jenny, who has been in charge at the pub for 13 years, said the transformation owed a huge debt to their brewery, Admiral Taverns, that had been committed to getting the pub back on its feet.
Jenny said: "We were not sure they were going to be able to save the pub because it was so badly damaged from the floods this year.
"It is lucky for us that we are with a brewery that believes in the pub for the long term, they value the important of being in a heritage area so they decided to invest in not only fixing it but making it flood ready for if it floods again."
The efforts included fresh designs and a dedicated refurbishment so that all parts of the pub that are not washable – such as brick, tile or concrete – are removable.
It means that when the flood warnings go out Jenny and Alan can remove the bar, its panels, and a host of items, and put them into storage where they will not be ruined by flood water.
Jenny said: "When the river goes out it is then a case of washing, getting the sanitising team to come in and then putting everything back."
The incredible transformation means the couple should be spared the agony of watching as the bar room is destroyed as it is submerged under the weight of vast amounts of flood water.
Jenny added: "It used to go up the wall, through the plaster, but there is no plaster any more so we should be able to get over a flood in two weeks.
"You almost hate to say it but you want to see if it works."
Jenny said that they had been amazed by the level of support from the brewery, adding: "The thing is I didn't have to ask them to help, they just did it. They just rang me and said don't worry about a thing, we will take care of everything."
Going back to earlier this year the pub was hit three times in the space of weeks, flooded on February 17, February 25, and then on March 3.
Jenny said it had been a scary experience waiting for the water to rise after it rushed downstream.
She said "It was terrifying because we had no idea how bad it would get. Even though we were following online, with help from the flood line, but by looking at what was happening in Crew Green we could gauge what was going to happen to us. We knew it was going to be bad but it was worse than anticipated."
She added: "We were totally in despair. We thought there is no way to fix it. When we went back in and looked after the floods it was so bad. The radiators had fallen out of the wall, the big oak bar was warped and ruined – that had been there since the 1960s.
"The weight of the water above a certain height collapsed everything below it. We thought that is it, and that is when the brewery stepped in."
While their home was uninhabitable Jenny and Alan were looked after "superbly" by both Telford & Wrekin Council, and the staff at the Valley Hotel, where they stayed for two weeks.
Jenny said the council had been wonderful in helping them – allowing them to station a caravan outside the pub as a temporary home after they found they were unable to get it through the gates and round to the back of the property.
Jenny said it had been wonderful to welcome customers back to the pub and that the feedback on the refurbishment had been the most important.
She said:"We are very, very pleased with how it looks. The biggest relief is all my locals and the people who have come down to the pub for longer than I have been here walked in and said "it is still The Boat."
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