Visitor numbers soar over weekend

HOPES of the hottest temperatures of the year failed to materialise yesterday - but that did not stop attractions across Norfolk reporting healthy trade.

HOPES of the hottest temperatures of the year failed to materialise yesterday - but that did not stop attractions across Norfolk reporting healthy trade.

Forecasters at the Norwich-based Weatherquest had said that temperatures could rise further after reaching 21C on Saturday. But heavy cloud cover prevented a Bank Holiday scorcher, with top temperatures in Norwich at about 19C with some coastal areas as low as 13C.

However, roads to and from popular resorts were busy with tailbacks reported in Yarmouth and coastal roads in West Norfolk.

Among those reporting a boom in trade was Pleasure Beach boss Albert Jones who said: "It has been one of our best bank holidays for many years. Sunday, in particular, was very, very busy.”

Emma Coombs, from Weatherquest, said that despite disappointing temperatures the worst of the showers held off until the evening yesterday, meaning there was still plenty of opportunity for people to flock to beaches, rivers and other attractions.

Tourism bosses all over the county described the weekend as a welcome fillip. There appeared to be positive signs that many people were choosing to take breaks locally as the recession bites.

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Along with the traditionally popular spots on the coast and Broads, Pensthorpe Nature Reserve was busy after being brought to national prominence by the BBC Springwatch series.

Martin Dupee, head of operations at Banham Zoo, the Dinosaur Adventure Park, in Lenwade, and Africa Alive, in Kessingland, said the visitor numbers were looking “very promising” as a result of the good bank holiday weather.

He added: “It has been a fairly positive bank holiday so far and we are quietly confident that it is going to be a good year. It is difficult to say whether it is because more people are staying at home, but we are heavily weather dependent and it has been absolutely superb so far.”

Dave Hannah, from the Bike Art cycle hire shop at High Lodge visitor centre in Thetford Forest, said it had been a “very busy” bank holiday at the woodland venue.

In North Walsham organisers of the Hippo Hunt, where people are following a map and trail taking them to 50 decorated model hippos, said the fine weather had been a "great bonus", bringing in hundreds of people to the town.

One of those organisers, Clare Fletcher, headteacher at North Walsham Infant School and Nursery, added: "I have even spoken to a family of four from Cornwall who had made the journey especially."

Nigel Croasdale, manager of Hunstanton Sea Life Sanctuary, said warm weather meant most of the thousands staying around the town had remained outdoors and enjoyed the resort's beaches.

"The feedback from the holiday parks is they're all full this week, so we're looking ahead to the rest of it with confidence," he said.

Graham Plant, Yarmouth council's cabinet member for tourism, said: "It has been a very good bank holiday for the town. Everyone I have spoken to has been well pleased by visitor numbers."

Events in the mid and north Norfolk area included a Mini owners rally at Fakenham Racecourse, Houghton held its international horse trials event, while the national Anglican pilgrimage at Walsingham also added to the buzz.

Louise Smith, manager at Burnham Deepdale hostel and camping centre on the north Norfolk coast, said they had been fully booked even before the weekend and that they have had to turn people away.