At the Crags

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Let's inspire all our visitors

   It's easy to fall in love with a place like Creswell Crags.  I think it will always be an inspiring place, meaning so much in many different ways to our many different visitors and users.  It has had so much effort and energy, not to say money, poured into it since the 1990s – with the removal of a sewage works, a diversionary road (long before Stone Henge!), the discovery of our enigmatic and wonderful engraved cave art.  And we've come on a remarkable journey even since opening the new visitor centre in summer 2009.

 

By itself, our internationally astounding evidence of human activity 55,000 years ago, and then again after Britain’s last ice age, is enough to draw visitors from far and wide – but is that enough for the Crags to pay their way as a commercial visitor attraction?

 

The Heritage Trust that runs the Crags site is an educational charity, set up with social aims in the early 1990s.  That can sit uneasily with the need to make money, but that’s the challenge now facing the Crags, as it is buffeted by uncertain funding.

 

Last year we were fortunate in gaining ‘Transition’ funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund.  That allowed us to work closely with the National Trust – experts in outside landscape management, volunteer organization and running tourist attractions that mix buildings and sites in rural locations.  Their suggestions were considered by our board of trustees, and we’ve now set ambitious targets for our shop, café and car park. 

 

We know we also need some major improvements in our infrastructure – from a website that can be used on mobile devices and handle advance cave tour bookings, to improved tills in our café and a better car park.  These are all signs of ‘growing pains’.  The Crags site received record visitor numbers of 45,000 in 2013-14, and topped this again in 2014-15 – we now need to capitalize on these extra visitors and make sure we can respond to their needs and wishes.

 

But it’s not just investment in things, we need to invest in our people – staff, volunteers and trustees.  Those of you who are subscribers to our e-newsletters and follow us on Twitter and Facebook will be increasingly familiar with our new plans and calls for volunteer helpers and supporters. 

 

It’s nothing less than a change of culture we’re undergoing – to one where we’re more self-sufficient, more aware of our users’ interests and needs, but in return where everyone understands that the Crags is a charity as deserving as any in the land.  We may not be big, or as obviously heart-wrenching as other charities that look after people or animals, but in our own way, are we not just as deserving?  Not of handouts from government… but of support from our many visitors and users.

 

Watch out for our exciting developments this year – from extra cave tours (every day where there’s a demand), exciting new uses of the site like our Cave, Cake and Collections package (what it says on the tin!), extra activities for the young, excavations (outside Mother Grundy’s Parlour – we hope!)… But please also think how you can help our charity stay strong and vibrant, so we can work together to ensure this inspirational place remains available for all to enjoy.

 

Roger Shelley (Director) 

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