One place heavily affected was Mytholmroyd in West Yorkshire, which was left battered after the River Calder burst its banks.
For Waites Confectioners it was the second time the bakery had been hit by severe flooding in the past few years. The company was hit in 2012 and after that time had been left without insurance cover.
Bakery director Janet Chew-Tetlaw criticised the government for failing to ensure the town was safe. “The floods of three years ago were devastating, but this is worse. The bakery is devastated now, but the government has done nothing to help us,” she said.
“They come round and say what they are going to do and make big promises, but nothing ever comes out of it. We are told there is funding for everything, but we never see the money been spent.”
Heartbreak: people trudge through floods in Mytholmroyd
The bakery remains closed at the time of going to press. Waites Confectioners was founded in Mytholmroyd over 100 years ago and now has two sites, one in Mytholmroyd one in nearby Hebden Bridge. Janet has been running the operation for 30 years.
The floods that hit Britain in December caused widespread destruction of their own. United Biscuits’ (UB) Carlisle factory was flooded by over a metre of water in the wake of Storm Desmond. The misery was compounded this month when severe flooding hit Cumbria again. This affected one of food and farming conglomerate Carr’s major customers, believed to be UB again.
Carr’s chief executive Tim Davies said: “Despite the direct impact of the floods… the speed of our recovery owes much to the resilience and tenacity of our employees.”
Lancaster had a power outage for about a week, but Filbert’s bakery carried on thanks to a few heavy-duty generators. Owner and director Felicity Diurwyn told British Baker: “We’re on slightly higher ground so we weren’t physically flooded, but a significant supplier of ours was flooded in Kendall. We changed all our lines and just worked with what we had, but in the build up to Christmas it was pretty tense.”
She added: “We were very patient with them (the suppliers), but eventually we had to demand that they deliver to us so that we could complete our Christmas orders. Thank god our freezers didn’t fully defrost, as that would have been a nightmare. We did have to take piles of croissants home to eat so that they didn’t go to waste – it was a pastry feast!”
A lucky escape: Felicity Diurwyn of Filbert's bakery in Lancaster had to cope with a flooded supplier
She goes on to praise another local bakery, Saker Organic Bread (part of Saker Wholefoods) who “had it far worse but were absolutely amazing. They had 4ft of water all the way through the bakery, and still managed to partly open up again for business the following week. They’re incredible – a real credit to the industry.”
And it would appear to be a similar story across the board – the floods are affecting plenty of bakers to varying degrees, but they are all determined to carry on.
Alex Dalgetty & Sons is a fifth generation bakery in Galashiels, Selkirkshire, specialising in traditional breads. The business is now run by Craig Murray, the original Dalgetty's great-great-grandson. He said: “There has definitely been flooding around here, but we’ve been lucky enough to have been able to carry on – it’s been business as usual for us.”
It was a similar story near Glasgow for family bakers McGhee & Sons’ owner Gordon McGhee, who said: “We’re one of the lucky ones really as we’ve had no issues – I know there are stacks of people out there who’ve had it really tough, but apart from the odd road closure we’ve held up ok.”
Devastated: Waites Confectioners in Mytholmroyd has been hit by flooding again
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GroceryAid are a national charity who support the food and drink industry and would be happy to support bakers affected by flooding. Go to www.groceryaid.org.uk or call their free, confidential helpline, which is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year: 08088 021122.