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Sunday, May 23, 1999 Published at 13:39 GMT 14:39 UK


Eclipse chaos fears dent Cornish tourism

Cornwall relies on summer tourism for a much-need cash injection

Predictions of traffic chaos and accommodation shortages in Cornwall during August's eclipse of the Sun, appear to be having a devastating affect on the area's tourism industry.

The BBC's Mike Crook: "One campsite owner thinks the talk of gridlock has gone too far"
According to the BBC's Countryfile programme, the warnings have put people off travelling to the area and bookings are at an all-time low.

At 11 minutes past 11 on 11 August, the Sun will be obscured by the Moon. It will be the first total eclipse over mainland Britain for 72 years. The next one is predicted to happen in 90 years' time.

Two million visitors were expected to witness the sight until widespread reports of congestion and accommodation problems hit the headlines.

[ image: The eclipse could attract two million visitors]
The eclipse could attract two million visitors
Now, some campsite owners say they have plenty of places left.

Patrick Lobb advertised 60 acres of his farm as a special campsite. He had hoped for hundreds of bookings - so far he has just four.

He has allocated areas for showers and even a disco. "Now it will remain a cattleshed unless something changes dramatically," he said.

Late bookings

But Eclipse Co-ordinator Gage Williams remains confident that the number of visitors will pick up.

"We are expecting a tremendous number of late bookings this year," he said.

"The booking pattern has changed quite significantly over the years. At the moment the average notice that people give for booking a holiday is down to six weeks."

He recommends potential visitors go early and stay for at least a week to avoid getting stuck in traffic.

Go-ped traffic-busters

One enterprising trader has come up with a device to help motorists avoid gridlock.

Essjay's skateboard shop in Truro is selling "go-peds" a type of motorised skateboard with a 22cc petrol engine similar to those used to power lawnmowers.

At 10-ins wide it can squeeze through gaps, cruise at 20mph and fold up into the boot of a car.

The shop has already sold five of the machines at a price of £499.

Simon Harvey of Essjay's said: "They're made by a Californian company and they are an ideal way to get around. It's really easy to use and there's even a model with softer tyres that you can use off-road.

"It's classified as a moped which means you just need a provisional licence and a helmet."

The DVLA said holders of a full UK driving licence can take the machines straight out on the road but provisional licence holders may have to undergo compulsory training.

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