Shropshire Star

Ironbridge landlords work to flood-proof pubs as traders carry on amid River Severn peak

It was business as usual for traders in Ironbridge on Monday despite high river levels in the wake of Storm Babet.

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The Bolthole and L-R: Artist in residence: Caris Jackson, staff: Jeni Holness and owner: Debra Harris

Businesses were open as usual on Monday after torrents on Friday and the village was alive with visitors who had stopped to take pictures of the swollen River Severn.

Temporary flood barriers went up along the Wharfage on Saturday afternoon as the town started to feel the effects of Storm Babet.

Traders had emergency plans in place should floodwater start to seep through the floors, but said they felt confident they had seen the worst of it.

Debra Harris, owner of The Bolthole on the Wharfage said: "You kind of get used to it. A lot of our furniture has been raised up and we are now trying to flood-proof as much as we can.

"There's not much else we can do really. Before there have been times where we have moved the furniture completely and had to move it all back again. This time we thought we would be prudent but not panicked.

Flooding around Ironbridge

"Business has been okay because a lot of people come to Ironbridge to see what's going on and you tend to get a different tourist because on the weekends we have a strong West Midlands crowd so that hasn't had much of an impact.

Flood barriers in place at the Wharfage

"Yesterday was quieter than our normal Sunday, I think people were aware of the barriers so I think people were a little bit more reluctant, and today has been steady.

"If you have a premises of any kind in a location like this within a floodplain you have to be prepared and you have to expect this at some point and it's not always hunky dory.

Flooding around Ironbridge

"But it's a small price to pay for being in a really great place."

Neil Acaster and Liz Broadhurst from Lincoln

Ben Ward, assistant manager at the neighbouring White Hart pub, said footfall had been affected by the flooding – losing about 30 lunch covers and 20 dinner covers – but the pub itself had not been flooded.

"It's quieter than normal and we've got a bit less traffic which is as expected. We are getting a bit too used to it, twice a year now.

"It's a cold, wet winter, but at least the barriers are here to keep us nice and dry."

The White Hart assistant manager Ben Ward

Ben said he was waiting to hear from the borough council about whether the footpath behind might have to close, but that he was feeling confident and was expecting business as usual.

The Rolt family from Enfield, in north London, had been staying in the hamlet of Church Preen and decided to check out the historical attractions in Ironbridge.

On holiday from the London area: James Rolt 15, Clive Rolt, Jo Rolt and Sophie 11

Jo Rolt said: "We knew you'd had rain but we hadn't expected this and we are quite fascinated, so we've been looking at all the flood defences.

"We were quite looking forward to doing the river walk but it's underwater, so we got distracted by the river."

This was the Rolts' first time to Shropshire as a family and they said they were surprised by how high and how fast the current is.

Flooding around Ironbridge

"It's just fascinating really, but you keep thinking about all the houses and the businesses and the people," Jo added.

The Boat Inn

One pub which is intimately familiar with the River Severn is The Boat Inn at Jackfield, which has the flood records painted on the door. This acts as a constant reminder of the ever-present threat in the minds of drinkers and staff.

The Boat Inn flooded again this time around, but staff were quick to act and spent the weekend moving everything upstairs and out of the way of floodwater.

Flooding around Ironbridge

Mario Thomas, who runs The Boat, said: "I have assessed the situation and it's not as bad as the last one earlier this year. We were more prepared this time.

"There has been little damage, in probably the bar, but other than that nothing is damaged."

The Boat Inn staff member: Matt O'Crowley

Mario went on to say that he is optimistic that if the water starts to recede that the pub will be able to re-open this week.

The clean-up process is a large community effort and it is thanks to locals who support the pub that it can re-open within just a few days.

Flooding around Ironbridge

"I have been in the pub 19 months and we knew the pub very well prior to us taking it over so we knew what to do and what not to do, and the way we have dealt with it is we want it open a lot quicker than previous years," Mario added.

"It is what it is, and we made fun yesterday when we were doing another version of Riverdance and the community just embraces it."

The pub has some exciting events coming up, including a visit from Father Christmas himself.