To our visitors, and future visitors,
As you know, we closed on 17th March, to keep staff and visitors safe from COVID-19. During the lockdown, local people continued to enjoy the gorge, but we were worried we might never be able to open our facilities again. As an independent charity, we lost all of our income: we rely on school visits, cave tours, car parking, special events, the cafe and the shop to survive. Of our staff team of over 30 people, all but four have been furloughed.
The remaining four staff have been focused on fundraising and keeping an online presence for Creswell Crags, so we stay in people’s minds. Our supporters have rallied around us: the fundraising campaign has received over £24,000 in donations and Gift Aid, including a substantial contribution from our neighbours Lhoist, and over 780 donations from individuals. Every penny and supportive comment has been deeply appreciated. In addition, we were kindly granted a rent holiday during lockdown by the Welbeck Estate, and we have been successful in applying for emergency funding from Historic England and Bolsover District Council, with further funding application outcomes expected soon.
The government’s Job Retention Scheme allows some of our staff to begin returning to the site in July, on a part time basis, which they will. The easing of lockdown restrictions means that museums are officially allowed to open from 4th July onward. We will not be ready to reopen on that date: our car park and visitor centre will remain closed. However, our staff will be working behind the scenes to catch up with all the maintenance we’ve missed and installing health and safety measures, such as sanitiser stations and one way systems, which mean you will be safe when you are able to return.
The good news is that we will be ready to begin our phased reopening at the start of August: our target is Saturday 1st August, but we ask for your understanding if it is later than this – do watch our social media for announcements. At that stage, it will only be the car park, toilets and cafe – for takeaway only – that are able to reopen. But we’ll have cut the grass, opened the gates, and made the site a lovely place for a picnic once again. We will monitor the situation and gradually open more of the site: the museum, the shop, and socially distanced cave tours, as well as creative new features, will be introduced. But the process will be careful and cautious, putting the safety of visitors and staff above all else.
We still face challenging times. Our most reliable income stream – school visits – will not return until at least 2021. We’ll have missed most of our busiest season, from Easter to September and fewer visitors are expected across the entire tourism sector. We will not be financially secure as we head into winter, but the team will continue to seek new funding, and find new ways to welcome and engage visitors. We will continue fundraising and we will continue fighting for the place you all love so much. We can’t wait to welcome some of you back soon!
Thank you for your support during this difficult time for so many of us. And see you soon.
From all at Team Crags
P.S. Don’t forget our Fundraising Auction with Charles Hanson on Friday 3rd July! Every penny raised will help us keep the doors open!