England

Fighting back after the winter floods

Man wades through water in Hebden Bridge Image copyright Peter Byrne/PA via AP
Image caption Hebden Bridge was badly hit by floods in December 2015

It is three months since Cumbria and Yorkshire were hit by severe flooding which damaged homes and businesses and ruined countless Christmas celebrations. As the extremely wet winter comes to an end, two business owners explain how they have coped.

Kate Claughan, owner of The Book Case in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire, had just finished her Christmas dinner when she heard the ominous wail of the flood warning siren in the valley below.

Undeterred she set off in wellies and wearing a flashing Santa badge to investigate what damage was being caused to her independent book shop. However, she couldn't get near due to rising water.

"When I got inside on Boxing Day night it was very spooky, there was no power in Hebden, the streets were dark and as we tried to find a way in our lights just kept picking up a strange shimmer as we reached more flood water," she says.

Inside the shop there was complete devastation with stock washed everywhere. The force of the floodwater had upturned shelves, desks and even thrown computer equipment into the water.

Image copyright Book Case
Image caption The damage inside the shop was considerable

Ms Claughton thinks the flood cost her business about £50,000, including loss of trade. At its peak, the floodwater was 5ft (1.5m) deep.

Three months on things are "looking up" and the shop was reopened by poet Ian McMillan on 17 March.

"It was so lovely to see things back to normal here, but there are still shops shut on the street and workmen's vans all around.

"We are restocking books slowly but the assumption is it will happen again. You can't relax - any time there is heavy rain floods can happen."

Water-damaged books swell up and the shop staff had to literally crowbar stock out of the shelving.

Image copyright Book Case
Image caption The shop was closed for three months but reopened recently with a visit from poet Ian McMillan

The shop has had even more flood resilience work carried out, including specialist wall coverings, new flood door and flood gate. It also flooded in 2012 but the levels of water last time far outstripped their original defences.

And now the shop is uninsurable for floods.

"We have been putting money away for when it floods again, it's self-insurance and seems commonsense."


Image copyright Glenridding Hotel
Image caption The Glenridding Hotel was flooded twice in December

Andrew Laverick runs an outdoor shop in Glenridding, Cumbria, that was flooded twice during December. Three months on he says he is still "knackered" from his ordeal.

His Glenridding shop was first flooded on the 5/6 December.

"It's very stressful what happened and for a few days when we couldn't get in to the village, never mind the shop.

"When we did get in we moved the silt out. We'd no sooner done all that than we were flooded again."

However, Mr Laverick says dealing with the insurance claims are the hardest part of flooding. Despite his shop in Glenridding reopening, another in nearby Pooley Bridge, where floods caused a bridge to collapse, is still shut.

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Media captionThe scene at shops in Glenridding after the river burst its banks in December

Usually the winter sees the number of visitors lessen and provides a "slack time" for the business owner to recharge. However, since the floods he "hasn't had a breather".

"I'm flat out, it's massive stress putting together a claim, getting your deed, policies and receipts in order creates so much work".

Glenridding village was at the centre of the wettest 36 hours in English weather history, but it has not dampened his spirits.

"I love this place, I was in tears when I saw the shop and the village smashed up. But it's business as normal."

Image copyright Andrew Laverick
Image caption Andrew Laverick said: ""We are trying our best not to look like a disaster."

Where there was once grass in the village is now gravel but last weekend a volunteer force, rallied through social media, planted, begged and donated plants around the village.

"We are trying our best not to look like a disaster - if the tills are ringing you can always find more energy."

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