Memorandum submitted by Clearwell Caves
1.1 Clearwell Caves are an amalgamation
of six interconnecting mine systems covering a surface area of
245 Hectares (approximately 600 acres). The caves have been tunnelled
into by miners since at least the Bronze Age over 4,000 years
ago until large scale mining ceased in 1945.
1.2 In 1968 the mines were bought by Ray
Wright and the first few caverns opened to the public. Over the
last 32 years, the business has gradually been developed to offer
a major amenity for; sightseeing tourists, mining and caving enthusiasts,
military and management training organisations, schools and colleges,
geologists and historians.
1.3 In 1995 Clearwell Mine Management Ltd
was formed separating operational responsibilities from property
ownership which is now held by the family trust.
1.4 Clearwell Caves are placed as the "Royal
Forest of Dean's Iron Mining Museum" offering a range of
activities depending upon the interest of the visitor. Activities
range from a pleasant self guided walk through nine well lit caverns
suitable for families, to full scale caving and military training
1.5 The museum has been developed and owned
throughout its operation by the Wright family and both the Limited
company and family trust operate under their guidance today.
1.6 There is a central core of four permanent
and 15 temporary specialised and/or seasonal staff.
1.7 Considerable experience has been gained
in operating this attraction, resulting in a realistic and knowledgeable
view of the tourism market and business development. Development
and running of the Caves has been self funding since its founding
over 30 years ago, the Caves now attract an average of 50,000
visitors a year and have become one of the foremost visitor attractions
1.8 Ray Wright is CEO of Clearwell Mine
Management Ltd; Chair of The Forest of Dean Tourism Association;
Chair of the Forest of Dean Tourism Task Group; Verderer of Her
Majesty's Forest of Dean; Secretary to the Forest of Dean Free
2.1 Since the outbreak of the Foot and Mouth
disease MAFF have ordered the closure of the Forest of Dean public
footpaths and land having open access. The paths into the Forest
have been closed using conspicuous red and white tape and prominent
signs posted at the start of each route.
2.2 On the approach roads into the Forest
of Dean the A48, A40 and A4136 large sign posts have been placed
advising motorists/visitors that they are entering a foot and
mouth infected area.
2.3 A large incinerating operation using
the army mobile incinerating vehicles was set up on a small triangle
of land with the A4136 entry into the Forest of Dean on one side
and the main road into Coleford on the other. The site will be
taking animals transported from parts of South Wales, Somerset
and Wiltshire, as well as the whole of Gloucestershire. The smoke
fumes, smell and site of the operation is highly visible to the
public. Soot and debris are being spread over trees and public
roads in the vicinity.
2.4 Both national and local government personnel
have given unhelpful advice to the public and educational establishments
that they should not arrange visits to the countryside as this
may spread the disease. In particular the Gloucestershire Area
Education Officer has written to all maintained schools in Gloucestershire
that they must not make visits into the countryside. The result
being that Gloucestershire schools cancelled all visits to centres
based in the countryside.
2.5 The period up to Easter relies heavily
upon visits from schools and pre-booked group visits. After Easter
the general holiday season began and from when we begin to receive
a mix of the general public, schools and pre-booked groups.
2.6 Of the 58 school and other pre-booked
visits due to come from 1 March when we opened until 15 April,
28 visits were cancelled. This could have been worse but we contacted
as many of the schools as possible to reassure them that we were
operating as usual.
2.7 By the Easter period we were 76 per
cent down on our normal income. There were virtually no members
of the public visiting the Forest of Dean as the countryside was
described as closed.
2.8 Just before Easter the free ranging
sheep had been culled. The Forest countryside still remains closed
to access with no date yet given for the re-opening. The deer
are not to be culled but apparently pose no threat to other animals.
If these points are correct, it appears to be appropriate to re-open
3.1 I believe that for visitors to have
confidence in the countryside once more it needs to begin a process
of re-opening. As long as there is a blanket closure of access
onto the countryside people will continue to hesitate and stay
3.2 If government money is provided to promote
rural tourism, the money should go to the distinct areas proportionately
to the number of businesses within each area. This allows each
distinct area to promote its interests, but perhaps linking directly
with a national campaign. Local businesses know their current
circumstances and usual markets and can promote themselves more
cost effectively using that knowledge.
3.3 A marketing campaign needs to be co-ordinated
both nationally (for UK holiday makers and overseas visitors)
and locally (to attract the bread and butter day trip market within
a 75 mile radius, which is currently absent). The two campaigns
will be most effective if linked by common image and purpose.
The Forest of Dean Tourism Task Group for the Forest of Dean has
been created to tackle promotion during this crisis and requires
funding to ensure its campaigns are effective.
3.4 The Government could advise the media
that when covering rural issues and access into the countryside
that they try to avoid the impression that it is a no go area
for the public. A few articles in major national papers showing
positive images of rural life, tourism and businesses would do
a world of good. After all people believe editorial in newspapers
more than they do adverts ("they would say that wouldn't
4.1 A date could now be set for the re-opening
of the Forest of Dean.
4.2 The media need to present the countryside
in a more positive manner.
4.3 A national and local advertising campaign
needs to be co-ordinated to attract UK and overseas visitors.
4.4 The local campaign for the Forest of
Dean needs to be managed through the Tourism Task Group to ensure
cost effective and accurate targeting for key markets.
4.5 Action to deal with foot and mouth should
be handled more discreetly and hygienically.
4 See article "Forest of Dean and Wye Valley
Review"-13th April 2001 (not printed). Back
See guidance note from Gloucestershire Education Officer (not
See interview with Deputy Surveyor for the Forest of Dean, `The
Forester', newspaper 19th April 2001 (not printed). Back