Maidstone town centre in fight back to normality after huge spring tides submerge car parks and shops
It was a town engulfed in water - from its restaurants and car parks to many of its key shops.
Now Maidstone is fighting back to normality just weeks after nature turned its key landmarks into ponds and water features - as severe weather warnings remain in force for the county.
At its worst around 15 stores, bars and restaurants were forced to shut their doors to customers due to the damage and disruption.
Not quite the festive Christmas tree... Picture: George Haswell
The figure has now dropped to two - with Seekers lettings agent and Drakes pub still battling to get up and running.
However, there is a warning Kent could be affected by flooding again today as yet more heavy rain hits the county.
A yellow weather warning has been issued by the Met Office, which says there will be heavy downpours throughout the day and into tomorrow.
It could cause problems because the ground is already saturated and has seen the Environment Agency double the number of flood warnings in the county to six.
Shopping was earlier out of the question in Maidstone, as Fremlin Walk's car park and Lockmeadow car park were submerged in water.
Gloomy skies as floods hit. Picture: George Haswell
Town centre manager Bill Moss has been working round the clock to ensure it is business as usual, despite the flooding.
He said: “Everybody will know that roads were closed, car parks were closed, businesses were flooded and I’d be very naïve to think it didn’t have an impact on trade, because clearly it has.
"However, the general mood is let’s get up there and go for it. There have been problems and we are working through the problems.
"Businesses are extremely resilient and people that have been completely flooded are now looking for new premises to move into.”
He added: “The town now is open for business, there’s lots of people around and it’s very buoyant in the town centre at the moment.”
Flooding after heavy rainfall in Maidstone
While the majority of businesses are back to trading as normal, some are still counting the cost of the heavy rain.
In Lockmeadow, the Wonderland club was closed on New Year's Eve - a key time of year.
Meanwhile The Bridges Restaurant had to cancel a large number of bookings over Christmas and new year.
While footfall over the festive period is down compared to the previous year Mr Moss is surprised just how well businesses in the area are doing, despite the recent weather.
He said: “People have been out and people have been spending. From what we hear there’s been an awful lot of money spent in the town centre over the Christmas period.
“The closed stores are just two out of 650 so the majority of businesses are still there and ready for everybody.”
Mr Moss is now calling on people in the area and further afield to go shopping in the town centre and be part of Maidstone’s January sales.
Workmen clean up after the floods at Lockmeadow, Maidstone
Meanwhile, Maidstone Market reopens today after floods cancelled five of its dates.
Stallholders will be back at the Lockmeadow complex, in Barker Road, ready for customers at 7.30am.
Businesses usually trade at the town centre site every Saturday, Sunday and Tuesday, but the area was completely flooded on Christmas Day and it has taken more than a week to clear the debris.
A woman is rescued off a house boat in Maidstone. Picture: Medway Coastgaurd
But not every west Kent visitor attraction has escaped as unscathed.
A number of animals died after floods swept through the Hop Farm venue.
The Paddock Wood attraction would not confirm how many or what animals had been killed, but said a number, including chickens, had been saved.
A spokesman said: “It is with regret that I can confirm we did lose animals to flooding over the Christmas period.
“The town now is open for business, there’s lots of people around and it’s very buoyant in the town centre at the moment" - Bill Moss
“All our staff came to help and try and rescue them, working day and night to save as many as they could. It could have been a total loss but it was not.
“We have a high level of care and passion for the animals here and a number put themselves at risk to ensure many survived.
“We were hit with an unprecedented situation and we did all we could.”
A statement on the Hop Farms Facebook page thanked the staff for their help and public for their support.
All surviving animals have now been moved and re-homed on a temporary basis.
More flood pictures and stories are in a 14-page special inside the latest edition of the Kent Messenger - on sale now.
Stories you might have missed
- Click here for more Maidstone news
- Click here for more news from across the county