Baylham bounces back with tourism award

THE cloud over a Suffolk rare breeds farm at the centre of the first bluetongue outbreak in Britain lifted last night as it scooped a top tourism accolade.

By Sarah Chambers

THE cloud over a Suffolk rare breeds farm at the centre of the first bluetongue outbreak in Britain lifted last night as it scooped a top tourism accolade.

Baylham House Rare Breeds Farm near Needham Market is preparing to re-open tomorrow minus two of its beloved animals, Debbie the Highland cow and Lorraine the Old Gloucester, after they became the UK bluetongue outbreak's first victims.

And it will be a double celebration for the farm after it lifted the People's Award for the best visitor experience for the second year running at the second Tourism in Suffolk Awards, organised Archant Suffolk, publisher of titles including the EADT.

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The centre endured three weeks of drama and heartache after Debbie was struck down with a mystery illness which its owners, the Storer family, first feared might be foot-and-mouth. Her condition was confirmed positive on Sunday, September 23, and the site closed to the public. Lorraine's diagnosis came shortly afterwards, and both animals were culled.

Hundreds of letters of sympathy have poured in to the farm from all over the world, including New Zealand, South Africa, France, Germany and Holland.

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“The emotions have been up and down because it all started a week before the closure,” said owner Richard Storer. “It was a shock to the whole farming community because everyone thought the Channel would protect us.”

Luckily, after the first two cases, two successive tests have given the other animals at the site, which is home to a collection of about 150 goats, sheep, alpacas, cattle and poultry, the all-clear.

While the vets have departed, Government entomologists remain on site to monitor the midge population, the carriers of the bluetongue disease. Midge traps, which attract the insects with blue lights at night, have been set around the farm and insects caught are tested for the illness.

One of tomorrow's star attractions will be a Suffolk Punch, brought on site especially to celebrate the re-opening.

Staff have been busy sweeping, cleaning and baking in preparation for the big day. The farm includes a café which sells a selection of home-made foods.

During the closure, the Storers - Richard and wife Ann, their son, Neil, and his partner, Christine, munched their way through their prepared foods - including soup, bread rolls, flapjack and coffee cake - to avoid it going to waste.

The local community has been very supportive throughout their ordeal, said Mr Storer. “All this support, all the messages we have had, have all helped us get through the emotional trauma of what we are having to face,” he said.

He added that they had missed seeing the public on the farm, and were looking forward to its return.

“It's been strange and I think, one gets the impression - one can't say it's fact - but you get the impression the animals miss the people,” he said.

Julian Evans, advertising manager at Archant Suffolk, described this year's awards as “fantastic”.

“We had a tremendous response again this year with even more entries than we had in 2006. It was a fantastic night. Everybody enjoyed themselves and people are looking forward to next year.”

Chris Bushby, chairman of Suffolk Tourism Partnership, said: “Once again the Suffolk Tourism Awards have been a great success celebrating the best of the county.

“The constant drive towards improvements in quality is imperative for our sector and in Suffolk we have some true champions, worthy of national recognition let alone our county awards.”

Scott Dolling, destination marketing manager at the Suffolk Tourism Partnership, said: “The Suffolk Development Agency's tourism partnership is pleased to be main sponsor of this event and we aim to continue to increase the value of tourism to Suffolk's economy.

“Tourism already adds over £1billion to Suffolk's economy and is a vital part of the county's ongoing success. Our work includes many initiatives and this autumn we are working with East of England Tourism and Enjoy England to improve the profile of Suffolk in campaigns aimed at the London market.”

The winners of the Tourism in Suffolk Awards, whose main sponsor is the Suffolk Development Agency's Tourism Partnership, are:

Best Small Attraction: Winner - Somerleyton Hall and Gardens, Somerleyton, near Lowestoft; Runners-up - Greene King Visitor Centre, Bury St Edmunds, and Ipswich Tourist Guides, Ipswich.

Best Large Attraction (sponsored by Ensors): Winner - Sutton Hoo, near Woodbridge; Runners-up - Africa Alive!, Kessingland, and Easton Farm Park, Easton, near Wickham Market.

Best Hotel (sponsored by JLS Catering): Winner - The Swan Hotel, Southwold; Runners-up - Bedford Lodge Hotel, Newmarket, and The Angel Hotel, Bury St Edmunds.

Best Caravan & Holiday Park (sponsored by Clydesdale Bank): Winner - Center Parcs, Elveden; Runners-up - Cliff House Holiday Park, Dunwich, and Heathland Beach Caravan Park, Kessingland.

Best B&B/Guesthouse (sponsored by Ryan Insurance): Winner - Colston Hall B&B, Badingham, near Framlingham; Runners-up - Bankside B&B, Uggeshall, near Halesworth, and Moat House Farm B&B, Carlton, near Saxmundham.

Best Self-Catering: Winner - Gladwins Farm, Nayland. Runners-up - Blaize Cottages, Lavenham, and Wattisham Hall, Holiday Cottages, Wattisham, near Needham Market.

Best Tourist Information Centre (sponsored by Leisure Target): Winner - Mid Suffolk TIC, Stowmarket; Runners-up - Sudbury TIC and Ipswich TIC.

Sustainable Tourism (sponsored by Suffolk County Council Environment & Transport): Winner - Museum of East Anglian Life, Stowmarket; Runners-up -

Sutton Hoo, near Woodbridge, and Thornham Field Centre and Walks, Thornham, near Eye.

Festival & Events (sponsored by Leo Print): Winner - IBC & Otley Hall Gosnold Discovery and Events, Ipswich and Otley; Runners-up - The Newmarket Festival and the Bury St Edmunds Festival.

Education & Training (sponsored by Cipher): Winner - Bury St Edmunds Association of Registered Tour Guides; Runner-up - Museum of East Anglian Life, Stowmarket.

Special Award for an Outstanding Contribution to Tourism (sponsored by Ross Coates): Winner - Tim Rowan-Robinson.

People's Award for the best visitor experience (sponsored by Visit Ipswich): Winner - Baylham House Rare Breeds Farm, Baylham, near Ipswich; Runners-up - Bankside B&B, Uggeshall, near Halesworth, and Easton Farm Park, Easton, near Wickham Market.

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