Framlingham Castle and West Stow Anglo Saxon Village report healthy summer despite heavy downpours and cool temperatures

Follow the grey brick road - Mark Stannard

Follow the grey brick road - Mark Stannard - Credit:

Tourist attractions in East Anglia are continuing to pull in visitors, despite the glum and unsettled weather.

With a wet June – one of the wettest on record – and only a few hours of cloud-free sunshine so far in July, you would not be mistaken for thinking people would not venture out to see some of Suffolk’s best sites.

But despite the warning from forecasters saying the next few weeks could remain dull and there being showers one minute and brilliant sunshine the next, one historical site has seen numbers increase.

Verity Hales, site manager at Framlingham Castle, said numbers were slightly down in April and May, but they were up in June.

She added during last weekend visitor numbers were again good – and the weather how it is at the moment, with a cocktail of warm temperatures and cloud, was near-perfect for the site.

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Ms Hales said: “We don’t want it to be 30C because people will head to the beach.

“We want cloud and no rain, not nice enough to go to the beach.

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“Showers are okay because people can go inside here and also everyone is prepared. We might moan about it, but we have all lived long enough to know that if we put our wellies on we can still enjoy it.”

Ms Hales added things were looking good for the summer holidays too.

“We would love the weather to be spot on and prefer not to have a torrential downpour, but at the moment we’re good.”

In the west of the county, Lance Alexander, heritage officer for West Stow Anglo Saxon Village, said: “The weather has not seemed to have affected us footfall wise. A lot of our footfall is school groups and fortunately none of these have cancelled. We always make sure we have a bad weather plan, with inside activities.

“With our big events like the Dragon Festival, we had 2,300 turn up, even though there was the threat of rain and the downpour.

“This year we have been clever with the marketing for events, making sure people know we have the marquee and there is always an indoor alternative. We have been saying ‘we have you covered whatever the weather’.

“Obviously we would prefer to do the outside option, it is never quite the same if you do it inside, but that option is always there and we try and make it just as entertaining.

“We would rather people did not have to shelter inside, and it certainly has not been a particularly sunny summer.

“I think had we had a summer like this last year, it would be a different story. I remember walking out at our warriors event, with a Roman helmet on filled with an inch of water, and it was a washout – we could have a had a few more of those had we not planned for it and got our message right this year.”

Over in north Essex, it’s very much the same message.

George Kieffer, chairman of Visit Essex, said visitor numbers at a host of the county’s main attractions are likely to be slightly lower in wet weather.

“It’s a shame we’ve been having this weather, as it does directly affect our tourism here in Essex,” he said.

“We don’t have our figures yet, but it’s likely to be the case that indoor attractions are seeing more visitors than usual. But it’s also the case that when it is raining and miserable outside, people don’t want to get in their cars and drive to a tourist attraction.

Mr Kieffer added: “If it continues the way it is, though, we have plans in place to deal with it.”

And while the current forecasts make for gloomy reading, the weather has meant photographers have been able to capture some stunning images on camera.

On Monday, following a heavy downpour, our photographer Sarah Lucy Brown managed to sum up the theme of the summer so far as the sun broke free from the clouds on Ipswich Waterfront and a rainbow soared across the sky.

And there could be even better weather ahead – which may not please owners and managers of tourist attractions in the county – with warmer temperatures for Sunday and Monday reaching between 24C and 25C (75.2F to 77F).

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