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Landlady of Welney’s Lamb and Flag pub shares viability fears after A1101 Welney Wash Road closed for 84 days over winter





The landlady of an 18th century pub says it may be forced to close due to persistent flooding.

Gina Birch, 59, has been the landlady of the Lamb and Flag in Welney for 25 years.

But she now fears for its future after the road it is on was closed for more than 80 days over winter – with a 22-mile diversion in place.

Gina Birch, landlady of The Lamb and Flag pub in Welney. Picture: SWNS
Gina Birch, landlady of The Lamb and Flag pub in Welney. Picture: SWNS

And she said it wasn't "viable" to keep a pub running that has become so affected by flooding.

The pub's history dates back to 1860 when it was recorded under Elgood's Brewery but records show it has been in the village since 1794.

The road it sits on – the A1101 Welney Wash Road on the Norfolk and Cambridgeshire border – is on a flood plain and was closed for 84 days between October last year and this March. It reopened on Friday after a long period of closure.

Flooding in Welney. Picture: SWNS
Flooding in Welney. Picture: SWNS

Diversions have to be put in place by Highways officials when the road is inaccessible but this means locals aren't able to visit businesses.

Motorists have to undertake a lengthy 22-mile diversion which Ms Birch said was having a huge impact on the trade of the pub as there are fewer people willing to pass by.

She said: "Be it climate, be it just more water coming our way, it’s becoming more and more of a regular occurrence – and that’s what the pub won’t be able to stand.

"It’s not that the washes haven’t always been there, but the problem seems to be exacerbated.

The Lamb and Flag pub in Welney. Picture: SWNS
The Lamb and Flag pub in Welney. Picture: SWNS

“On a forward moving concern, definitely it won’t be viable, simple as that, to keep a pub going that’s so affected.”

Ms Birch, who also lives in Welney, is a tenant of the pub with Elgood's Brewery making any final decisions on its future.

The mother-of-five explained how an employee of the pub had to add 45 minutes extra time onto their commute to work.

Gina Birch, landlady of The Lamb and Flag pub in Welney. Picture: SWNS
Gina Birch, landlady of The Lamb and Flag pub in Welney. Picture: SWNS

She said: “She lives literally just the other side of the wash, so her journey goes from five minutes to 50 minutes.

"The point is it’s not a ten-minute diversion, it is such a long way around for people, so that has a big impact and there’s also the environmental impact of us driving that far.

“The village has become very elderly because it doesn’t suit many people now, with the lack of amenities and the fact that they can’t get to the transport links.

A car submerged in the floodwater on December 19 2023. Picture: SWNS
A car submerged in the floodwater on December 19 2023. Picture: SWNS

"You can’t commute to Cambridge anymore, it’s just too risky as a village to move into. It needs a raised road, a bridge – whatever idea they want to come up with.

“It’s a busy A road and you think it’s something, in this day and age, that we shouldn’t have to go through.”

As for any financial support, Ms Birch said there wasn't anything despite grants being allocated to other places.

She explained: "There’s no form of financial support.

Flooding in Welney on December 19 2024. Picture: SWNS
Flooding in Welney on December 19 2024. Picture: SWNS

"A lady put a good comment on my Facebook yesterday – 'perhaps there should be some recompense and support from the council whose water we are all taking’.

"The more they are building around Milton Keynes and Buckinghamshire and Bedfordshire, the more water we are taking.

“And that’s fine – it serves a purpose and a really good purpose.

"No one wants to see towns flooded, but equally, if that’s going to be the case then the infrastructure should be in place for us to take more water and the obvious one is to give us a road into the village.”

"One of our biggest concerns is with the Environment Agency having spent £36m raising the banks to protect the farmland.

"It is important to protect the agricultural land but it makes you wonder what’s coming our way."

In 2022, engineers completed a five-year flood protection project to raise a river bank and protect more than 2,000 homes and agricultural land in the Fens near Welney.

Road closed sign at Welney. Picture: SWNS
Road closed sign at Welney. Picture: SWNS

Work to raise the Middle Level Barrier Bank of the Ouse Washes "flood storage reservoir" cost £40m and began in 2017.

When full, the flood storage reservoir holds enough water to fill Wembley Stadium 22 times and stretches 19 miles long.

However, flooding at Welney remains a big issue in the village with the road shut 84 days over the winter.

Ms Birch said: “I’ve been at the pub for 25 years and local community-wise, the school has shut and we’re the last pub left in the village.

"We’ve seen village pubs shut for lots of different factors – business factors and government factors and it’s just not getting easier.

"So the last thing we need is something like this to exacerbate the problem.

“We’ve never reopened seven days a week since Covid, because it's just too much with the energy bills and the staffing bills so we’re down to five days a week anyway.

"We’ve been losing money all winter. I’m putting personal money in now, so it’s going to hit a crisis point pretty quickly.”

Welney Flood Watch

A volunteer group that monitors the water levels - Welney Flood Watch - measured the flooding on the road at 9 inches (23cm) in depth on the centre white line on Thursday.

On Thursday, February 15, the depth of the water had been measured at 54 inches (1.38m) on the road.

The highest recorded level was in 2003 when it reached 162 inches (4.13m).

Ken Goodger of Welney Flood Watch and chairman of the parish council. Picture: SWNS
Ken Goodger of Welney Flood Watch and chairman of the parish council. Picture: SWNS

Ken Goodger, 67, is one of two volunteers on Welney Flood Watch and also the chairman of the parish council in Welney.

He started the group five years ago when, as a farmer, he would be called out by the emergency services to help get vehicles out of the flood water in his tractor.

He said: "I used to get called out two to three times a week and when I'd get there, it would be all these emergency vehicles trying to get a car out that had just conked out.

"Once there were six fire engines and rescue boats from Peterborough – I wanted to take the pressure off the emergency services by keeping people up to date."

Ken Goodger wading in Welney Wash on February 12 2024. Picture: SWNS
Ken Goodger wading in Welney Wash on February 12 2024. Picture: SWNS

Ken and fellow volunteer Matt Barker measure the depth of the water, post updates online and liaise with the Highways team on whether the road should be open.

He said: "A survey suggests that this road is used by 4,000 vehicles a day and if it is just on the cusp of being closed, sometimes people chance it.

"By posting the pictures, we can help people visualise what the road actually looks like rather than them estimating from the sign that records the water level."

While the parish council, including Ken, meets with Highways England and the council to discuss the state of flooding in Welney, he said long-term fixes are needed.

He added: "To start with the signage needs to be improved, something that explicitly says: 'This road is flooded - do not attempt to cross'.

"But we also need to explore funding to fix it in the long-term, whether that's considering raising the road or possibly putting a bridge in place.

"The service industry is struggling particularly here – not just the motorists – and everything costs so much more."

A spokesperson from Norfolk County Council said: "The issue of flooding of the A1101 Welney Wash Road is a long standing one.

"Various possible responses have been looked at and costed, with the price of addressing flooding at Welney Wash Road being calculated as being over £50m.

"We’re also pushing for legislative permission to build more reservoirs to store excess water in times of flooding, and more authority for local agencies in responding to flooding."



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