Heritage sites bank on the great outdoors - Museums Association

Heritage sites bank on the great outdoors

Venues with gardens and grounds are planning for a busy few weeks
Covid-19
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Simon Stephens
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The gardens of the former home of Charles Darwin, Down House, are open
The gardens of the former home of Charles Darwin, Down House, are open English Heritage

Heritage sites with outdoor spaces that are permitted to open under current Covid restrictions are planning for a busy few weeks over Easter and beyond.

English Heritage opened more than 60 of its larger sites on 29 March, including castles and abbeys with extensive grounds, and houses with large historic gardens.  

To help the organisation manage visitor numbers and social distancing, all visits must be booked in advance via the English Heritage website.

“All the sites reopening have wide open spaces where local visitors can safely roam and relax,” said an English Heritage spokesman. “Our teams have been working hard to get each site ready and to ensure a visit is a safe one – with social distancing, increased cleaning and limits on visitor numbers.”

Each site has new signage to remind people to observe social distancing and follow one-way routes to avoid bottlenecks.

English Heritage is planning reopen all of its sites by 21 June, subject to government guidance. The charity said that closing its sites over the past year has resulted in a loss of income (from visitor admissions, memberships, events, catering and retail) of about £65m.

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The grounds at Yorkshire Sculpture Park (YSP) are open for visitors, although people have to book. Capacity is limited, and one-way systems and social distancing measures are in place.

The grounds of Yorkshire Sculpture Park are open. Henry Moore, Upright Motive No.1 Glenkiln Cross, Upright Motive No.2, Upright Motive No.7, 1955-56 bronze Photo Jonty Wilde. Courtesy Tate. Reproduced by permission of The Henry Moore Foundation

"YSP has been partially open since July last year, with the open-air galleries and grounds accessible throughout,” said Helen Featherstone, the deputy director at YSP. “Our admissions system has enabled us to limit and monitor visitor numbers, ensuring the safety of visitors and staff. As we reopen additional areas of YSP in accordance with the government roadmap, we will continue to take utmost care to ensure we are operating in a Covid safe way.

“We're feeling optimistic about the year ahead, with some fantastic exhibitions and projects programmed," Featherstone concluded.

The National Trust has started to open its gardens and outdoor spaces to visitors living in Wales following first minister Mark Drakeford’s announcement on that the country’s tourism sector could start reopening from 27 March.

“We have been working hard behind the scenes to make sure our places comply with the relevant guidelines and measures so that they are as safe as can be for our staff, visitors and surrounding communities,” said a National Trust spokeswoman. As part of the measures to keep people safe, pre-booking is required.

The National Trust already has outdoor spaces open in England and expects visitor demand to be high in the coming weeks.

“We're expecting some of the places we care for to be very busy in the warm weather and over the Easter weekend,” said the National Trust spokeswoman. “We're asking people to pre-book their visit with us and follow government guidance to make sure everyone stays safe and enjoys their visit.”

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