A tourist attraction is to close its doors “for the foreseeable future” as the coronavirus pandemic continues.
The caves at Cheddar Gorge & Caves are more than half a million years old and are now an international centre for caving and rock climbing.
But its future has been plunged into “great uncertainty”, the site’s parent company said, as it confirmed the loss of 40 jobs.
Longleat Enterprises suggested it was unlikely the popular spot – which features a series of caves, a museum and cafe – would reopen within the next 12 months.
In a statement, the firm said: “Due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, Cheddar Caves and its attractions will be closed for the foreseeable future. The effect of the pandemic on our operations has been profound.”
The statement added: “Sadly, we do not envisage the attraction being viable for the remainder of 2020 and there is great uncertainty as to the trajectory of the virus in 2021 and the associated guidance and rules.
“With great regret amid the ongoing uncertainty and long timescales involved we have to consider making redundancies, which will affect the vast majority of our staff working at Cheddar.”
At almost 400 feet deep and three miles long, the gorge is England’s biggest. It is home to Britain’s oldest complete skeleton – known as Cheddar Man – which was buried in Gough’s Cave some 9,000 years ago.
The spectacular gorge remains open to the public but some attractions including cave tours and rock climbing have been closed since the beginning of lockdown.
The attraction had planned to reopen some of its activities on July 27, but announced on the day that it was unable to due to “unforeseen circumstances”.
Main photo: Cheddar Gorge & Caves
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