The reopening of Shropshire’s leading museums has been hailed a huge success after thousands of people enjoyed an unforgettable weekend out as lockdown restrictions were eased.
The Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust reopened Blists Hill Victorian Town, Coalbrookdale Museum of Iron and The Iron Bridge Tollhouse for the first time in more than 100 days on Saturday after the Government gave them the green light to welcome back visitors.
The Museum of The Gorge, which suffered damage during the floods of February, also opened as a free entry Visitor Centre.
Trust chief executive Nick Ralls said he was delighted at how well the weekend had gone and how many visitors had taken advantage of the museum reopening on the first day possible under the new coronavirus regulations.
“It has been a tremendous pleasure to see people back at our sites again after such a frustrating period of inactivity. We have had to make some changes to how we operate to work within the new restrictions but judging by the smiles on people’s faces everyone has had a wonderful day out.
“The wellbeing of all those on our sites is obviously paramount and we have put a huge amount of work into ensuring we meet all the necessary regulations for both visitors and staff alike.
“We are delighted at the numbers of people who not only attended on Saturday but have also booked tickets for the next few weeks – and would love to see even more as the summer continues.”
Andrew and Hannah Beacham and two-year-old son Connor, of Albrighton, near Wolverhampton, were among the first visitors through the doors at Blists Hill on Saturday.
“We are really pleased to see it open again. Everything has been really well organised and you can tell that the museum staff have thought through everything they need to do to keep us safe,” Hannah said.
The Tranter family, of Shawbirch in Telford, also praised the measures in place at Blists Hill to meet the coronavirus regulations.
Children Kayleigh, 13, Hollie, 10, Lily, eight and Tommy, three, said they could not wait to visit the sweet shop, whilst mum and dad Carl and Mel were looking forward to fish and chips for lunch.
“The organisation is the best we have seen at anywhere we have visited and we’re looking forward to really lovely day out.”
The Trust, a registered heritage conservation and education charity which cares for 36 listed buildings in the Gorge, was last week awarded Good To Go status by England’s national tourism body for its work in meeting all the Government’s safety guidelines.
Strict social distancing measures have been put in place along with an enhanced cleaning and hygiene regime, measures to control visitor numbers, clearly marked routes through the sites and timed entries.
A special audit of toilet facilities has been carried out to ensure they could be used safely, new hand-washing sites are in place across the sites and cleaning arrangements have been increased to offer extra peace of mind for visitors.
Tickets and timed entry slots went on sale online on 23 June at www.ironbridge.org.uk and visitors are being urged to snap them up quickly.
The museum – in a World Heritage Site and Shropshire’s most important visitor attraction – has been closed since the lockdown was announced in March having earlier been hit by the floods along the Ironbridge Gorge in February.