DESPITE concerns over Covid 19 hitting trade this Christmas, independent traders around Ledbury remain cheerfully upbeat about their prospects.

Recently, the government advised people to take a lateral flow test before going to crowded places like shopping or hospitality venues. 

Any concerns that this could have a dampening effect on trade have not been reflected locally, with traders saying they have already felt a seasonal bounce. 

This has come even before next weekend’s late-night shopping evening and the switch-on of the town’s Christmas lights officially launch the festive season.

Jess Newman of the Ledberry on the Homend said her team were already struggling to keep up with demand. “We can definitely feel that everyone is starting to gear up for Christmas,” she said. “We are taking lots of party bookings and have plenty of events planned. 

“We are so busy that we will be increasing our staffing levels, as we’re finding it difficult to keep up.”

She added that her venue’s outdoor eating areas and private rooms had helped dispel concerns over covid safety for some customers.

Jane Salt, the owner of Hay Wines on the High Street, said the seasonal trading boost had started earlier than ever this year. “It started in mid-October, when we wouldn’t usually expect it until a few weeks later. 

“Things are looking very positive — so fingers crossed they stay that way.”

Chris Howell, who runs the Oak Inn Staplow with his partner Heather Owen, said Christmas bookings were coming in thick and fast. “It is definitely picking up and looking very promising,” he said. 

“We are fully booked for most of this weekend, and have got lots of Christmas parties, up to 16 people, booked over the coming weeks as well.” 

However, at the Royal Oak in Much Marcle, recently arrived landlady Hannah Slade was not quite so confident. “I have only been here for six weeks,” she said, “so I don’t have anything to compare it with. 

“We are getting groups making bookings, but we are not sure how things will go — I have noticed more people out and about wearing masks recently, so it remains to be seen.”