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Sunday, 05 July 2015

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Cumbria bank holiday business boom

IT was a bumper weekend for tourism companies in Cumbria as families flocked to make the most of their time off in the glorious sunshine.

Businesses reported their best Easter in years as good weather and creative offers resulted in a record breaking bank holiday.

John Woodburn, operations director of Windermere Lake Cruises said the company had experienced one of its best Easter weekend in decades.

“It’s been exceptionally busy, much busier than last year,” he said. “Last year it was very cold but this year the sun is shining, the blossom is out, the trees are green and the mountains are reflecting on a clear, still lake.

“It’s been one of the busiest Easters we’ve had on record.

“It has been a welcome boost for this time of year because in February the weather was particularly bad and the numbers were quite low.”

Mr Woodburn said the success was cause to be optimistic for the rest of the year: “Of course it depends on the weather but our bookings are looking good. We have tour groups coming in from China and other places.”

A series of novel attractions helped bring the crowds to Barrow’s Dock Museum, where 2,881 visitors came through the door in the first two days.

Victoria Powell, premises manager said:“I think the highlight was our animal workshops which were spectacularly well attended and out ‘meet the ancestors’ day went down well.

“The site has been incredibly busy as well, with lots of families on the playground enjoying the sunshine.”

There were some extra passengers filling up the seats as Eskdale and Ravenglass Railway reaped the rewards of a special Easter offer.

Families took advantage of the “Teddies go Free” offer, with children aged between five and 15 years travelling free over the weekend if accompanied by a furry friend.

Alex Tilsley, marketing assistant, said: “It’s been very busy and I believe it has been busier than last year.

“We’ve had to add additional coaches to our trains every day and pretty much every child has brought a teddy along with them.

“It’s been a really good weekend compared to last year because we have had some wet and miserable weekends.”

Meanwhile, young travellers on Lakeside and Haverthwaite Railway earned themselves a chocolate treat with each child receiving a free cream egg.

Karen Maher, operations manager, said a successful Easter was a good omen for the summer months: “Everything has been for us this weekend, the weather has been perfect and there are a lot of people about.

“It’s been on a par with last year. This weekend has been a bit of a strange one with schools breaking up at different times and some children going back Tuesday and some not going back until next week so hopefully we will see a bit of an extended Easter.”

Annie Rose, owner of Millom-based Cumbrian Heavy Horses, which offer Lake District riding holidays, said it had been a record-setting four days.

“From our point of view, it’s been the best Easter we’ve ever had and we’ve been here eight years. It’s a combination of having a late Easter and the weather being absolutely superb.

“It’s easily double what we did last year.

“The word is getting out there and people are starting to show a real interest in what we do.

“It reflects that we are trying hard to provide a quality service and shows that our reputation is starting to precede us which is great. It bodes well for the summer.”

Karen Brewer, marketing and development manager at South Lakes Wild Animal Park, described the Easter weekend as one of their busiest in years.

She said: “We have been extremely busy. There were lots of feeding sessions with the giraffes and penguins. It will certainly have been busier than last year.

“We have had lots of people who haven’t been before which is always great and we hear them raving about us, saying how amazing it is to have animals wondering with us.”

Alex Sharphouse, co-owner of Old Hall Farm in Bouth, said it was the first time the farm was fully open at Easter and this year’s success was likely to make it a permanent fixture.

He said: “We’ve had a nice number of people. I think it’s the weather that has drawn people out. It’s good for this time of year. The bottle feeding with lambs was popular – the kids love them.

“It’s the first Easter that we have been open full time. We’ll definitely do it again.”

Andy Chafe at Muncaster Castle said visitors were queuing up to make the most of the good weather: “We’ve been much busier than last year. It’s like the height of summer.

“It’s been absolutely packed here and the atmosphere has been fantastic.

“I’m hoping, if the weather is good for us, this might suggest that things are bouncing back, it’s a really good feeling.”

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