Calderdale floods report: Fightback begins for Hebden Bridge

Pub Manager Joanne Crossley as Workmen clear out  flood damaged fittings from The Albert which saw flood water go over the height of the bar.'Hebden Bridge on the first day back at work following the Boxing Day floods.  4 January 2016.  Picture Bruce Rollinson

Pub Manager Joanne Crossley as Workmen clear out flood damaged fittings from The Albert which saw flood water go over the height of the bar.'Hebden Bridge on the first day back at work following the Boxing Day floods. 4 January 2016. Picture Bruce Rollinson

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On the day that the nation returned to work in 2016, it was business as anything but usual for the people of the Calder Valley as the mammoth mopping up operation in the aftermath of the festive floods continued.

For hundreds of the shops and businesses in towns like Sowerby Bridge, Mytholmroyd and Hebden Bridge that had borne the brunt of the county’s worst flooding in living memory, Monday was a day of reckoning.

Bob and Maria Cowling of William Holt Greengrocers and Fish Merchants still cleaning up following the floods in Hebden Bridge on Boxing Day.'Hebden Bridge on the first day back at work following the Boxing Day floods.  4 January 2016.  Picture Bruce Rollinson

Bob and Maria Cowling of William Holt Greengrocers and Fish Merchants still cleaning up following the floods in Hebden Bridge on Boxing Day.'Hebden Bridge on the first day back at work following the Boxing Day floods. 4 January 2016. Picture Bruce Rollinson

After the long Christmas break, yesterday saw the first visits of insurance assessors and tradesman who have an important part to play in the rebuilding of a community in a state of shock.

More than a week after its town centre was swamped beneath six feet of floodwater, Hebden Bridge remains a badly scarred shadow of its former Bohemian self: a town famed for its hippy chic has now become more synonymous with the high-vis jackets sported by the drivers and passengers of the vans and lorries which straddle every pavement.

For greengrocers Bob and Maria Cowling, the one saving grace was that the flood held off until after they had managed to ensure their loyal customers were supplied with sprouts and satsumas.

“We’ve lost an awful lot of stock but it could have been worse, a lot worse, had this happened before Christmas Eve,” said Mr Cowling. “The water was above waist high inside the shop and a lot has been ruined.”

On Market Street, few of the shops and cafés escaped the inundation and many will remain closed for months as builders, shopfitters and dehumidifiers do their bit.

At the Afghan Rug Shop, there are no rugs to display: a huge 6ft-deep void now remains where until recently fine handmade wool and silk carpets rested.

Owner James Wilthew said: “We only opened five months ago and never thought we’d face anything like this because the floodwater has never come this far up Market Street before. Fortunately we were able to get all the stock out in time, but only just. Just minutes after we moved the last rug the water came in.”

Joanne Crossley, landlady at The Albert on Albert Street, fears it will be Easter before the popular pub opens its doors again.

“I managed the Golden Lion in Todmorden in 2012 when that flooded and never thought I’d see anything like this again,” she said. “I’ve only been here for four weeks: the flooding seems to follow me around!”

A small army of volunteers rallied to help stricken locals and in the immediate aftermath of the flood and many good Samaritans continue to offer support from the Hebden Bridge community hub based at the Town Hall.

Social media volunteer Miriam O’Keeffe, who has been running the hub’s Facebook page, said: “All these tiny acts of kindness are what make this community so special.”

Community leaders in Hebden Bridge have issued an appeal for donations of electrical goods and furniture to help the people of the stricken Calder Valley put their lives back together. Details of how to donate can be found by visiting caldervalleyfloods2015.weebly.com/.