From bust to boom for attractions as visitors flock back to Shropshire

Day-trippers are flooding through the gates of visitor attractions across the region – after the lifting of Government Covid-19 pandemic restrictions.

'Business is booming' at the Severn Valley Railway
'Business is booming' at the Severn Valley Railway

Many local attractions are seeing visitor numbers equal those back in 2019 and particularly at weekends as people break loose of confinement behind their own gates.

However, many centres are still having to limit numbers and are asking people to pre-book tickets and time slots.

Lesley Carr, head of communications at Severn Valley Railway, said they are still taking plenty of Covid safety precautions.

She said: “It’s been really good so far. Everything is working out fine.

“Business is booming. We’re doing really well on sales. We’ve had lots of people coming for a day out with the kids. Also our events are doing well.

“We are offering Covid-secure bookings, so if anyone books but has to self-isolate before they visit, they can rebook or get a refund.

“We are operating at a reduced capacity - we can’t fit as many people in as before. But we’re doing extremely well.”

The railway is running its days out with old-fashioned compartment carriages, so it’s easier to keep people separate than it would be on an open carriage.

“We’re lucky we can do that,” added Lesley. “Not a lot of heritage railways have the number of compartment carriages that we do.”

Telford Exotic Zoo has moved into the town park

Scott Adams, director of Telford Exotic Zoo, hopes the summer will signal the start of the venue’s recovery. It had been closed for the entire pandemic period before last Saturday, and has moved from Priorslee to Telford Town Park.

He said: “We only opened up again on Saturday, July 24. We’ve been completely shut throughout the last 18 months.

“But now we’re opened up at our new location. It’s crucial for us now that we have an uninterrupted summer. It’s the only way we can keep going. People have been so excited for the reopening and to come and see the new site. We’ve had a really good first week back.

“Because we didn’t opened until the restrictions were lifted, we haven’t had to change how we do things like some places have. But we did design the new site with the pandemic in mind, with the one-way system.

“People have been using their common sense. I haven’t really noticed people speaking about the pandemic. I think they’ve just been so desperate to get out and do things with the kids. Get back to a bit of normality.

“It’s so important to our future that we have most of the summer. The alternative doesn’t bear thinking about. Hopefully this will be the start of our recovery. But there will be a long way to go.”

Maggie Appleton, CEO of RAF Museums in Cosford and London, said the facilities combined had lost more than £3 million during the course of the pandemic. But she is full of optimism about the future, especially with the new outdoor play area at Cosford proving popular, and an outdoor cinema coming in mid-August.

"Cosford has been brilliant," she said. "It is absolutely buzzing. It's looking as though our July figures have matched 2019. That is really good.

"Our visitors feedback is that it feels really joyful but safe. We're asking people to wear masks in indoor areas. We've got recommended routes but there is a bit more freedom for people to explore. It's such a large area, so people can do that and still feel safe. The outdoor playground has been really popular.

"We have lost a lot of money, and it will affect us long term, almost like long Covid. It's going to be tough, but visitors help us massively. It's just really good to be back."

A spokesman for Drayton Manor Park said that since restrictions had eased staff had been delighted to have seen “a significant increase in visitor numbers”.

He said: “After months of lockdown guests are excited to get back out and enjoy fun family days out and this has been reflected in the number of visitors we have seen over recent weeks

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