'This is demoralising, but we won’t be beaten': Shrewsbury remains defiant in face of extreme flooding
It is a town defiant and drawing strength from the courage of its community.
The message from the people of Shrewsbury is: “This is demoralising, but we won’t be beaten.”
Shropshire was delivered more waves of woe after the River Severn burst its banks and turned large parts of Shrewsbury into an underwater world for the second time in a week.
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Just days after residents and traders had cleaned up the mess from Storm Dennis, 400 tonnes of water a second came cascading towards the town.
And Ironbridge is now steeling itself for another battering after a severe flooding warning was issued.
The river is expected to peak in Shrewsbury and Ironbridge this morning.
Community-spirited scenes were witnessed down at Longden Coleham, where people were ferrying the elderly and taking supplies up and down in boats, and having fun kayaking in the water.
One pensioner, John Edwards, was even given a piggy back to his house in Thomas Court after he fancied a trip to Marks & Spencer.
Kind-hearted locals helped him out before delivering him safely back to his wife.
It was a far cry from the usual sights in one of Shrewsbury’s busiest streets, which is usually at a standstill with traffic.
Yet it was unfortunately familiar to last week, and businesses had only just recovered after cleaning up from last week.
Sam Newell, from House Coffee Co in Longden Coleham and The Allotment in Greyfriar’s Bridge, said it was “frustrating” that the floods had returned so soon, but that people were better prepared.
“This is the second time in seven days and it is difficult when you’re a small independent business,” he said.
“We’re trying our hardest to sort everything out.”
Belle Vue councillor Kate Halliday was down to lend a hand. She added: “We were better prepared for this than last time. We made sure we had plenty of sandbags and someone kindly came and put barriers up on all the shop fronts to try and keep the water out.
“It’s been a big community effort, all the shop owners have been helping each other out. We’re just hoping the river doesn’t rise much higher. It’s the worst I’ve seen it and I’ve been here about 20 years.”
Smithfield Road, Ravens Meadow and Chester Road were all badly hit again.
Martin Lunt, from Lunt’s Pharmacies just off Smithfield Road, was in his wellies, wading across the road to peer in and inspect his store.
He said: “We’ve got about four inches of water in there. I’m hoping it’s starting to level off. We were fairly well prepared and in Shrewsbury we do get a reasonable amount of notice with the Environment Agency. But we’ve only just finished cleaning everything up from last week. It’s very demoralising.” But he said they would not be beaten.
Mr Lunt added that thanks to links with neighbouring Severn Pharmacy, patients who use Lunt’s could pick up there prescriptions just across the road.
Nearby pub The Salopian Bar managed to open on Sunday night, with some locals helping landlord Ollie Parry prepare for the inevitable.
Many businesses were doing their best to remain open and avoid being hit too hard in the pockets again. Rachel Chidlow, owner of The Lion & Pheasant Hotel and Restaurant at the bottom of Wyle Cop stressed that they were still trading.
She said: “We’re working very hard and we are still open. It’s obviously quieter because people can’t get into town.”
Staff were doing their best to drain the cellar as water poured in using a pump kindly lent to them from a regular.
Rachel added: “We’re lucky that our rooms and our kitchen are upstairs and it hasn’t reached the restaurant either.”
Chris Allen, whose house backs on to the river by Greyfriar’s Bridge, had his electrics ruined for the second time in days after gallons of water gushed into his cellar.
Despite needing a day off from work as an IT project manager to keep an eye on what was going on at home, Chris, who also fills in as club mascot Lenny the Lion at Shrewsbury Town games from time to time, was in good spirits as he watched swans swimming in puddles outside the front of his house and chatted to people taking pictures.
The water was so high at the rear of his 700-year-old property, you could only see the roof of his brick-built shed.
He said: “It’s completely filled the cellar, I’m just hoping it doesn’t end up in the living room. Last week was the worst I’ve seen in in 15 years of living here, and it’s looking like it’ll keep going.
“Everybody is really good here. We all have to stick our pumps on at the same time. We must all try to help each other out and look after the old chap at the end.”
Neighbours Terry Roberts and Lorraine Peever have been flooded eight times in just 13 months since moving in.
Terry said: “Something needs to be done here. There’s definitely a case for it. You just have to look at all the businesses that have suffered. It would be an expensive job.”
Chris added: “It’s a nice spot here normally. It’s almost worth all the hassle. But it is frustrating.”
Emergency services were on the alert, with the advice for all members of the public to stay away from the River Severn and not to venture into standing water on roads.
The return of the flooding coincided with the announcement that more than £13,000 of government funding has been awarded to the West Mercia Search and Rescue team.
The money is part of a £1 million package being handed out to 50 volunteer organisations across the UK, which carry out vital search and rescue operations.
The West Mercia branch will receive £13,458.99 to ensure it can continue to keep people safe in the region.
MP Philip Dunne welcomed the funding and said it was particularly important given the recent floods.
“The impact of Storm Dennis and its aftermath has reminded us of the incredible work our volunteer search and rescue teams to do keep people safe, especially during times of flooding and bad weather,” he said.