Creswell Crags was hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. Forced to close during lockdown, the popular heritage visitor attraction lost all income from cave tours, school trips, car parking, the café, and gift shop. The site, which is run by a charity, Creswell Heritage Trust, sounded the alarm early in 2020 and several emergency funding grants, including from Historic England, Bolsover District Council, and the National Lottery Heritage Fund, as well as a generous rent holiday from the landowner, Welbeck Estate, a successful community fundraising campaign, and an auction hosted by celebrity auctioneer Charles Hanson, helped the site to survive this difficult time and reopen, with no loss of jobs for the 35 staff.

The largest stream of emergency funding has been from the government’s Culture Recovery Fund, which has helped museums, theatres, galleries, and more, across the UK in the wake of the pandemic lockdowns. Last week, Creswell Heritage Trust was delighted to receive news of an additional sum, just under £220,000, from the third round of this fund.

Visitors will have noticed some changes at the site, such as a new terrace and awning, expanding the outdoor seating capacity and therefore the ongoing success of the onsite café. However, much of the funding is also going into behind the scenes work to make the organisation more resilient for the future. Visitor numbers are still below where they were in 2019, and encouraging people to return, and new visitors to discover Creswell Crags, is now a key part of the challenge. This will involve a marketing push in the new year, a new volunteering programme, and investment in events and activities on site, online talks, livestreamed education programme, and working with partners at other sites. Creswell Crags is on the tentative list for World Heritage Site Status, and obtaining this remains the long term ambition, as well as bringing the story of 50,000 years of human activity, Ice Age cave art, ancient mammoths and hyenas, and mysterious seventeenth century Witch Marks, to wider audiences.

Chair of Creswell Heritage Trust, Dr Tim Caulton, said: “Creswell Heritage Trust is immensely grateful for the ongoing support from the Cultural Recovery Fund. We have used the funding received to date to make the Trust more resilient in the future, but with visitor numbers not yet returned to pre-COVID levels, this additional support is most welcome. We are eagerly anticipating improved visitor numbers in 2021 and making plans to welcome them, increase the amount of time they want to spend at Creswell Crags, and encourage them to return regularly to experience our changing programme of events and activities, as well as the beauty and astonishing history of our site.”

An image of outdoor seating and tables near the Creswell Crags visitor centre, with sun parasols and blue sky above.

The new café terrace at Creswell Crags, just one of the changes visitors will notice in the next few months.

Creswell Crags is open every weekend during November, December and January, and every day from 1st February onwards. See the Events page of the website for information about winter events.