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EDITIONS
Wednesday, 29 August, 2001, 16:28 GMT 17:28 UK
Foot-and-mouth: The toll on one business
The Seatoller Guest House
Jay and Morven Anson have struggled through the crisis
The foot-and-mouth crisis threatens the entire fabric of rural life in the UK, says the Countryside Agency, with the estimated cost to the overall economy reaching 4bn to date. Here, a small business owner in Cumbria explains his plight.

Cumbria is home to some of the country's most beautiful countryside and under normal circumstances walkers and climbers flock to the area in their thousands.

Since the outbreak of foot-and-mouth, the county has had 871 cases and is still subject to tight restrictions. Jay Anson, who runs the Seatoller Guest House at the top of the Borrowdale Valley in Keswick with his wife, Morven, explains how business has suffered:

When foot-and-mouth first broke out in the beginning of February it was just at the very start of our season.

At the start of March, when we opened, it was just becoming apparent how serious the situation was and we found that just about all our pre-booked business just disappeared.

The large majority of our guests are walkers and climbers, so apart from one or two who visited out of loyalty, coming to this area was just not an option because all the fells were closed.

During March, April and May we took between 12% and 14% of our expected business.

'We had to be realistic'

We had to be very realistic and very honest with our guests and had to accept that they would cancel.

We did not keep people's deposits because we felt it was not their fault they were having to cancel but we did give them the option of leaving their deposits with us and booking again when the crisis settled down.

We kept in constant touch with our regular visitors and as a result of our hard work many of them are now starting to come back.

During June and July we took between 40% and 50% of our expected business and we reached the situation where we were running at an unprofitable level.

All our fixed costs still had to be paid but we were making no income.

It helped that we were allowed to defer payment of tax and business rates but that money will have to be found eventually.


Some people have got really, really down and are almost at the point of chucking the towel in.

We did not start to see any significant improvement until August and although all the fells in this area are now open, eight miles down the road they are all still closed.

Some people have got really, really down and are almost at the point of chucking the towel in.

But our decision right from the start was to remain as positive as we could. We took some very tough decisions about how to save money and we cut down our expenses from the start.

'Laid off staff'

This involved having to lay off many of our staff - even the man who came to do the garden had to go.

We cancelled all the big jobs like getting the outside of the house decorated and other renovations and set about doing the work ourselves.

We still had to be here seven days a week in case any business did come our way so we put all our efforts into the house.

The first half of the year has gone and we will never be able to make up for that.

But we just have to hope now that the last few months will see us through the winter.

We will have to get through as best as we can because there will be no spare money in the bank.

It's no good moaning about it, while there's business here to get we will go out and get it and we will work at it every hour God sends.

We will do anything and everything we can to keep this business going.

Since the beginning of August business has picked up for the Ansons and they are once again running at full capacity, but the damage caused by the hardship of the last six months is irreparable.

To add insult to injury Mr Anson received a letter on Wednesday morning saying his application for help from the government's Rural Recovery Fund had been turned down because all the money has run out.



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