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Businesses open and ready to welcome summer visitors despite ferry not running

[T]ourism-reliant businesses in Hawkshead have sent out a message to visitors: “We’re open and ready to welcome you.”

Many businesses on the Western side of Windermere have seen trade hit after the car ferry suddenly stopped running. The service needs a new motor and it could be out of action until October.

That’s bad news for businesses that rely on the ferry to bring in upto 1,000 visitors a day in the peak summer months. Some have reported a drop in takings of between 30-40 per cent since the closure following a fire at the end of May.

With the summer holidays starting in earnest this week, tourism businesses have lobbied Cumbria County Council to ensure signage is in place that will make it easy for visitors to follow alternative routes to the village.

A foot passenger ferry service has been put in place but they’re worried that without easy transport from the lake to the village people will be put off crossing.

A quiet Hawkshead centre

The Hawskhead area is home to some of the Lake District’s premium brands including Hawkshead Relish and Hill Top, Beatrix Potter’s family home, run by the National Trust.

At a meeting organised with the support of Merrick Solicitors’ #LawtoDoor service, shop owners, publicans and venue hosts discussed ways they can ensure they’re not ignored.

Ed Johnson, licensee of the Kings Arms Hotel, said it was vital that visitors didn’t get the impression they couldn’t reach Hawkshead.

He said: “Having a good summer is what gets us through the winter time. It will cause us some real problems if it goes on without any action being taken.”

Liz Hunter-MacFarlane and Kim Merrick in Hawkshead

Liz Hunter-MacFarlane, house and collections manager with National Trust South Lakes, said it was upto local businesses and organisations to band together.

She added: “We have to help promote each other and jointly promote a message that people can still get here without the car ferry.”

Kim Merrick, of Poppi Red, estimated takings were down 30-40 per cent and said: “We need to be heard and our concerns taken seriously.”

The traders are urging all affected businesses to join in projects to get the ‘open for business’ message out including looking at waterside publicity, promoting the hashtag #HawksheadisOpen on social media and using their own websites to broadcast the news.

Maria Whitehead, director at Hawkshead Relish, is a member of the Lake District National Park Partnership’s Business Task Force, which has written to the county council urging them to get new road signage in place urgently and to ask what other support is in place to help the Hawkshead community.

She said: “Our shop has been considerably quieter. People think of the ferry as some fun thing, they don’t appreciate it’s used day in, day out. For it not to be running is having a big impact.”

Westmorland and Lonsdale MP Tim Farron has been in touch with Scottish ferry operators CalMac, initially in the hope they may have a car ferry that could be loaned out.

He said: “They don’t have a spare boat, but I am now working with them to see if they could help us get an engine sooner than the current timescale. The technical team at CalMac are looking to see if there’s anything more they can do given their expertise in this field.

“It’s been good to see the county council listen to our calls for better signage around the lake.

“It’s also really important that while the council try and get this fixed as soon as they can, we get the message out there that Hawkshead and Bowness are very much open for business and I’ve been having conversations with Cumbria Tourism about how we do just that.

“I’m not giving up on this, no matter how difficult it may seem to solve.”

A county council spokesperson said: “Following last week’s statement regarding the Windermere Ferry remaining closed for essential repairs, the council can confirm new signage has been commissioned and will be in place shortly.”

Previously, Stephen Hall, the county council’s Assistant Director for Highways and Transport, had said: “This is a very unfortunate situation but the safety of our passengers must come first.

“To put this in context this ferry has operated with very few interruptions over the years and just like any vehicle it is subject to the daily wear and tear of being constantly in use.

“We have exhausted every option to provide a similar service but this news sadly means that over the summer period there will only be a passenger service as provided by Windermere Lake Cruises. As work is carried out we will do our best to keep people informed and hopefully we can get the ferry operational sooner, rather than later.”

Details about the alternative ferry service: http://cumbria.gov.uk/roads-transport/highways-pavements/windermereferry.asp

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