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EDITIONS
Tuesday, 15 January, 2002, 17:12 GMT
Is there life after foot-and-mouth?
Hadrian's Wall
Most of Hadrian's Wall was closed for nine months
Britain has been officially declared free of foot-and-mouth. But has the rural tourist industry bounced back from the brink? BBC News Online revisits some of the places hit hard by the outbreak.

In April, BBC News Online visited the north Devon seaside resort of Ilfracombe in what was then the heart of foot-and-mouth country.

At the Mullacott Cross Equestrian Centre, on the hilltop above the village, bookings were well down.

The centre was losing about 500 a week and one of the three full-time members of staff had been laid off.


We have had lots of inquiries and are looking forward to quite a good summer

Hannah Fennell
Mullacott Cross Equestrian Centre

Manager Hannah Fennell said: "We normally take out six rides a day with five to 10 people on each at this time of year. At the moment, we're taking out just four people."

A month later that figure had fallen to just one.

Eight months on, Ms Fennell has a very different tale to tell.

"Everything is looking quite a lot rosier," she said on Tuesday.

"We have lots of bills to pay off from the summer - but things are looking much better.

Hannah Fennell and riding pupil
Hannah Fennell and a riding pupil in Devon
"We have had quite a good winter.

"A lot of people have come down on holiday over the Christmas period because they realise the county is foot-and-mouth free."

Ms Fennell concluded: "We have had lots of inquiries and are looking forward to quite a good summer."

In Northumberland - the last county to be declared disease-free and the one where foot-and-mouth was initially traced - it may take longer to return to normal.

Jane Brantom is the project co-ordinator for the Hadrian's Wall Tourism Partnership. She told BBC News Online some sites would remain closed until the half-term holidays in February.

The most popular paths along the wall re-opened in November - but their nine months of closure had a knock-on effect felt throughout the area's tourism industry, according to Ms Brantom.


When we can say with complete confidence that everything is open again, the number of day visits should go up

Jane Brantom
Hadrian's Wall Tourism Partnership

"It has been the worst-hit part of Northumberland because if the wall is not open, people do not want to come," she explained.

"We have lost at least 22m - that is a conservative estimate.

"All businesses have lost something and over half are showing a drop in business of more than 25%.

"In a normal year we get about 600,000 visits - but last year that went down to about 200,000."

It could take more than a year for visits to return to pre-outbreak levels - but Ms Brantom still manages to offer a glimmer of hope.

"When we can say with complete confidence that everything is open again, the number of day visits should go up because the overseas market is still being hit by the strong pound and 11 September," she said.

"And we will be encouraging people to think about all the heritage and opportunities there are in the British countryside and to make the most of them."


Talking PointFORUM
Farm expert
The end of foot-and-mouth in UK?


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14 Jan 02 | UK Politics
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