PUB bosses in Ledbury say they have been very busy since the county was moved down to Tier 1 for Covid restrictions, however they have missed out on the usual visitors from further afield.

A number of Ledbury pubs have been operating a booking-only service, even for drinks, while the market town seems to have escaped the influx of drinkers from higher tier areas, which was a noticeable problem in Hereford and elsewhere last weekend.

Richard Jennings, landlord of The Talbot in New Street, said the pub has been "inundated" with customers, however Chris Howell of The Oak at Staplow said it was "a mixed bag" as there were no diners visiting from the likes of Wales as is normal at Christmas.

Mr Jennings said: “Saturday, we were inundated. We could not keep up with the people coming in, not that I’m complaining. It was great to be busy and lovely to see regular faces – people who did not want to venture in before.”

Mr Jennings said he had to turn people away, but he did not spot any outsiders and said he was careful to ask for postcodes when people made bookings.

It was a different tale in nearby Hereford, which is on a direct train line from both the Birmingham area and Wales.

A number of Hereford pubs and businesses will also be asking for proof of addresses, after out-of-county drinkers were turned away in droves last weekend.

Along the lines on Saturday evening, sizeable groups of drinkers were spotted getting on Birmingham-bound trains at Malvern Link, Droitwich Spa, and elsewhere.

Police say that up to 300 would-be pubgoers were denied entry to Hereford pubs.

But it was local people filling up The Oak at Staplow, near Ledbury, last weekend. The pub was full last Friday, Saturday and for Sunday lunches.

Manager Chris Howell said the menu usually attracts diners from as far afield as Wales, but there have been necessary cancellations because of the difference in the tiers.

Mr Howell said: “Our regular drinkers have returned, but we have had some cancellations from Wales, people who booked in for meals; so it’s a very mixed bag for us.”

Mr Howell, who personally believes Herefordshire should still be in Tier 2, spared a thought for the many pubs in areas of stricter tiers which may not now survive very far into 2021.

He said: “Half of the population now is not able to visit a pub, and my heart goes out to the landlords of those pubs.”

The Oak is also operating a booking system, with the team keeping a sharp eye on the postcodes. Mr Howell said he had seen no ‘incomers’ to date.

Shops have been busy too in Tier 1 Ledbury.

Steve Crowe, of Past and Present in the Homend, said: “It’s brilliant; I’ve had a shop full of people. It’s obviously been great, and it’s also great for the businesses offering hospitality.”

But among Ledbury residents there were some concerns about festive family gatherings being limited to Christmas Day only, although with this came the determination to make the best of opportunities.

Emma Donovan, posting on the Ledbury Reporter Facebook page, said: “There’ll be a baby boom with no long period of family visitors and only couples by themselves for entertainment. On the plus side, there will be less washing up and you can watch what you like on TV.

“Three generations live in my house and we’re all only children so we have no massive extended family anyway. It’s just Nana coming for lunch from the outside world.”