'Please support us' call from Shropshire tourist attractions

After their second shutdown of the year, Shropshire's tourist and visitor attractions today spoke of their hope that the run-up to Christmas can provide a boost at the end of a nightmare 2020.

Blists Hill Victorian Town is hoping for a Christmas boost
Blists Hill Victorian Town is hoping for a Christmas boost

The lifting of the lockdown and the move to the new tier system has seen attractions reopen for what would normally be the busiest part of the year.

The lockdown and following restrictions have seen many lose out on thousands of pounds of income throughout 2020, and Visit Shropshire today urged people to go out and show their support, with attractions having gone to major lengths to offer a safe and distanced day out.

Mark Hooper, the group's project lead, said: "With lockdown ending a lot of our great attractions are re-opening for the festive period and we want to remind the public that there are places they can go and things that they can do in a safe and secure way this festive season.

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"After what has been a very difficult year for everyone, including hospitality, our tourism and visitor attractions, we would urge people to show their support in what would normally be one of their busiest periods of the year.

"Make sure you pre-book and know before you go but there is a still a huge amount that people can do, which will provide the perfect post-lockdown and pre-Christmas boost."

He added: "I think all our attractions deserve huge credit for the efforts they have put in after the first lockdown and now to make sure people can still enjoy a day out safely."

More than 20,000 people have visited the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust since it reopened in July.

The Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust has reopened Blists Hill Victorian Town, Jackfield Tile Museum, Coalbrookdale Museum of Iron and the Furnace Kitchen.

The Iron Bridge Tollhouse and Museum of The Gorge have also reopened as visitor information hubs.

Richard Aldred, from the trust, said tickets had continued to sell during the November lockdown, helped by the promise of a 100 per cent money back guarantee.

He said: “After the year so many of us have had we have laid on a truly special Victorian Christmas to remember so that at least we can end the year on a real high.

“For the first time ever we have an outdoor ice rink at Blists Hill Victorian Town as well as a celebration of all things Christmas at our festive Victorian weekend on December 12 and 13.

We’ve lined up a host of old-fashioned entertainment and music, stunning grottos, a Christmas emporium, themed activities and, of course, Father Christmas himself.

“Our popular Winter Wonderland Grotto is coming back to Coalbrookdale too, giving children the chance to see Father Christmas in his sparkling woodland glade."

Shrewsbury's former Dana Prison

Joel Campbell from Shrewsbury Prison, said it cost £100,000 to keep the doors of the attraction closed, and that he anticipates losing another £35,000-40,000 in potential earnings over the festive period.

Mr Campbell was keen to encourage people to support their local attractions.

He said: "We opened up again on Wednesday. We've been able to start most things but we have had to postpone the prison break events. We're hoping that we might go into Tier 1 and then we would be able to run them again. It's one of the bigger draws because you can't do a prison break anywhere else.

"We have lots of people travelling from elsewhere in the Midlands and it's even been known for people to come over from France for the weekend. That's had to go on hold so it's been a big hit financially. It's about getting people back through the doors now.

"It's a bit different from the summer. The weather was nice, people had been locked up for three months, something that had never happened before. People were desperate to get out and the government was keen to encourage people to spend money with things like Eat Out to Help Out. This time it's a bit dark and the weather isn't as nice. It's more about saving Christmas."

Mr Campbell added: "We want people to get out and support their local attractions and businesses if they are able to. It's incredibly safe at the prison. It was built for social distancing and keeping people away from each other."

Park Hall Countryside Experience

Oswestry's Park Hall Countryside Experience will also be open again this weekend – and every weekend in the run up to Christmas, as well as December 21, 22, and 23.

Richard Powell, joint owner and director, said they had replaced their annual Santa's Grotto with an 'Elf and Safely' event, including crafts and an elf trail.

He said it had been a difficult year but that they were thrilled to be welcoming the public back, and was hoping for a repeat of the post-summer lockdown, when people had shown their support for the attraction.

"It has been difficult, it is all the indecision of knowing if we can open, what you can open, but we are keeping positive," he said.

"We have had lots of support through the year. Through the summer when we could reopen we had lovely comments and people have been very good at supporting us."

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