Tourism in Northamptonshire is booming.. despite the coldest May bank holiday on record
Business owners say they've been 'overwhelmed' with support
Despite the chilliest May bank holiday on record, tourism businesses in the Nene Valley are bouncing back after the latest lockdown measures eased in April.
As the first to benefit from more relaxed measures, some of the area’s most popular outdoor attractions and businesses have been ‘overwhelmed’ by the level of customer support.
Whitewater centre Northampton Active, which like other businesses have had to diversify during the pandemic, opened a cafe on site in October and offered takeaways for passers-by and regular customers throughout lockdown.
Director Glenn Newman said: “We've had a tremendous amount of customer support. The tables outside are always busy at weekends and during the lunchtime period during the week, but this is very much weather dependent.
“Going forward we are looking at plans to keep the takeaway and grab and go options for our customers and are looking at expansion plans to enable us to do this without affecting the sit-down daytime trade.
“It has been a very exciting venture for us and has certainly helped keep the white-water centre open.”
Alyson Allfree, Director of Rockingham Forest Trust at Stanwick Lakes is also reporting buoyant visitor figures.
“At Stanwick Lakes we have, if anything, benefited from the fact that people’s options for leisure activities were somewhat limited, and therefore they are happy to come to somewhere that has ‘a view, a brew, and a loo’!” she says.
Whilst popularity is weather dependent, as you’d expect of an outdoor facility, Alison says things are ‘pretty busy.’
“Visitors seem to be really grateful for a take-away drink or snack, even though they may have to queue for it, and for the chance for their children to get closer to nature while playing on the adventure play equipment,” she ends.
Elsewhere in the valley, some businesses have been overwhelmed by just how popular their outside offering is, believing that lockdown has had a stimulating effect.
“It’s gone crazy,” says Dan Wallace, owner of Adventure Rutland. “The phones have literally not stopped ringing since we opened again at the beginning of the month, with some activities in July now fully booked!”
The Sibson Marina-based business which offers water-based activities such as kayaking, paddle-boarding, and open water swimming, as well as half and full day courses at Rutland Water says that if anything, lockdown has increased demand and broadened outdoor sports appeal.
“We’re seeing more and more families coming here who see the lake as a safe, closed and sheltered environment.
“In some ways, lockdown has been a blessing in disguise as it enabled us to facilitate online bookings, something which is now coming into its own,” he says.
“We’re also very fortunate to benefit from the pent-up demand of people desperate to come and enjoy the great outdoors,” he says, a trend which he doesn’t see ending anytime soon. “Having been trapped in our homes for so long, I think people are going to want to make the most of their freedom again.”
Dan is also looking forward to a further lifting of restrictions so visitors can enjoy target sports such as axe-throwing and archery, with raft building, open water swimming and a mobile climbing wall also in the summer activity schedule pipeline.
Richard Hadfield, Operations Manager at Sacrewell Farm near Wansford similarly reports that business is going well, despite having to cap numbers to ensure adequate social distancing.
“We’re able to accommodate 900 people a day over two sessions, from 9 am to 12 pm and then 1 pm – 4pm and it’s been wonderful to welcome people back, with visitors adapting so well to the online booking system that we’re close to capacity,” he says.
“We’re lucky in that Sacrewell is seen by many as a safe, green place and of course, because of visitors interacting with animals, handwashing and cleanliness has always been of prime importance, well before the pandemic,” he adds.
The business, which also offers camping and caravanning, is also looking forward to restrictions easing, hopefully by May 17th.
“Although we are already welcoming nursery groups back, we’re looking forward to welcoming back school trips in the not-too-distant future, too,” Richard concluded.
For more information on what to do in the Nene Valley visit www.nenevalley.net