LEDBURY being plunged back into Tier 2 restrictions has proved a step too far for one of the town’s most iconic pubs, The Talbot, which is now temporarily closed.

The closure came into force ahead of the even stricter Tier 3 regulations, which are currenty now in force.

Tighter restrictions come at a time when Covid cases are rising dramatically in the county and in the Ledbury area, although not in Ledbury town itself.

Wadworth, the owner of The Talbot, issued a statement on Boxing Day, announcing the closure just as Ledbury moved from Tier 1 to Tier 2, in line with the rest of the county at the time.

Landlord, Richard Jennings said he was “saddened and shocked” to get the phone call, telling him of the Wadworth decision, and he added: “Tier 1 worked well for us, but not Tier 2, because of the restrictions on drinking. I have no idea when we will open up again. We’ll stay closed until further notice.”

Mr Jennings, who is now furloughed, described The Talbot as a “fabulous community pub” and said he had been planning a Greek Night for New Year’s Eve, when the phone rang with the bad news. In Tier 1, Mr Jennings had been operating a strict booking system for people wanting to drink, as well as eat, and the New Street venue, a sixteenth century coaching inn, had been so busy that Mr Jennings was turning people away.

A statement from Wadworth said: “We have made the difficult decision to temporarily close. Rest assured we will be back open as soon as we can. We are very proud of our pub and of being the hub of our community."

Some publicans did question whether the Ledbury area should have been in Tier 1 in the first place, including Chris Howell of The Oak at Staplow, near Ledbury, who personally believed Herefordshire should have remained in Tier 2 up to and including Christmas.

Richard and Janet Abell, who recently took over the Three Horseshoes Inn at Little Cowarne said they would go back to offering a weekend takeaway service.

Annette Crowe, Homed trader and former chairman of the Ledbury Traders’ Association said: “Tier 2 is bad news, and for the pubs it is especially unfortunate. I really do feel sorry for the pubs, and for all the staff that work there. Pubs are huge employers in the local economy, and this is really, really sad. I don’t know how many will survive, but in business you do what you can to survive.”

Mrs Crowe, a former town mayor, added: “Pre-Christmas for us was really good, because Ledbury people are really loyal. We had a very good two weeks, before Christmas. Our shop is limited to two, and we had people waiting to come in, and they were all very patient.”

That patience, and the strict booking systems being operated by local pubs, are reflected in the most recent Covid statistics for the market town, which is bucking both county and regional trends.

Statistics for the seven days to December 23 show 9 Covid cases reported for Ledbury, which is down by 2 on the previous week. But just over the border in Gloucestershire, in the Dymock, Hartpury and Huntley zone, there were 23 cases - a rise of ten; and in Newent, 17 cases were recorded, which is a statistical rise of 70 per cent. In the Fownhope, Tarrington and Marcle zone, ten new cases were recorded - a statistical rise of 233 per cent.

In the whole of Herefordshire, in the week up to December 23, 382 cases were recorded, which is a statistical rise of 149.7 per cent.

Dr Rebecca Howell-Jones, Acting Director of Public Health for Herefordshire, said: “We are extremely concerned about the rapid increase in the number of cases across the country and the recent rise we have seen in Herefordshire.

“We know this decision by Government has not been taken lightly, but it is vital that action is taken quickly to help suppress transmission of the virus."