Tourism industry enjoys Easter boost

TOURIST attractions in Suffolk reaped the rewards of a successful Easter weekend as people enjoyed the best of the weather.Many hotels and guesthouses were full, and some attractions even reported near-record visitor numbers for the first big business weekend of the year.

By Richard Smith

TOURIST attractions in Suffolk reaped the rewards of a successful Easter weekend as people enjoyed the best of the weather.

Many hotels and guesthouses were full, and some attractions even reported near-record visitor numbers for the first big business weekend of the year.

Thousands of day-trippers and holidaymakers flocked into Felixstowe over the four-day Easter break.

The direction and strength of the wind did play a major role in the resort's fortunes and after an ''amazing'' day on Friday under glorious sunshine, the bitter easterly wind on Saturday drove people back to the shops.

But Felixstowe was again busy on Sunday and Monday and with children on holiday the rest of the week and good weather forecast, the tourist trade was hoping it would be a bumper start to the season.

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Michelle Barr, the resort's services coordinator, said: ''On Friday we had an amazing day, it was very, very busy and obviously the sun helped and it was not too windy. Saturday, because of the wind, there was not many people about, but on Sunday and Monday it picked up again. The caravan parks are full and almost most of the hotels and guest houses are full.''

Framlingham Castle enjoyed a ''very good'' Easter break and staff were kept busy coping with large numbers of visitors who visited the attraction.

At Debenham the appearance of Brum, the children's favourite television car, brought in youngsters to the Easter Fair at the Leisure Centre.

The opening of the fair was performed by well-known children's writer Pat Hutchins, the creator of ITV's Titch and author of Rosie's Walk, and she stayed to judge a children's painting competition.

Visitors were out in force at Easton Farm Park, near Framlingham, where all the joys of Spring were in abundance with lambs, kid goats and chickens hatching.

Fiona Kerr, whose family run the park, said: ''We have had lots of people here and they are going away with smiles on their faces. The park is now in its 29th year and we try and keep it fresh.''

Both Southwold and Aldeburgh were busy throughout the Easter weekend. Hotels, guesthouses and restaurants in the two resorts were full and, apart from Saturday when cooler weather dominated, many people were on the beaches.

Judy Shambrook, duty manager at the Swan Hotel, Southwold, said: "We have been fully booked all weekend. The town and the beach have been packed."

The White Lion Hotel, on the seafront at Aldeburgh, was also fully booked for the Bank Holiday weekend.

"We have been ever so busy. The town has been packed," said Claire McDonald, assistant manager.

Visitor numbers were high throughout the weekend at West Stow Country Park and Anglo Saxon Village, and Ickworth House in Horringer, near Bury St Edmunds.

Visitors to the 125-acre park at West Stow were whisked back in time by their first ever Dark Ages games with wife carrying and axe-throwing among the events.

Dozens of people in traditional Saxon, Viking and Norman costume, ran stalls and demonstrations including weaving, rope making and pottery.

Park manager Alan Baxter said: "The whole weekend has been good and the car park was always full which is a good indicator.

"There seemed to be lots of happy people and we hope this bodes well for the rest of the year.

"Most of the time we look into a very tight archaeological period but this was a multi-period event.

"There was also a lot more entertainment with lots of history as well."

Elsewhere, the decision to build a hotel on the site of Ickworth House in Horringer appears to have been prudent.

Kate Hill, house steward, said the weekend had been very popular and cited the Ickworth Hotel, opened last year, as a possible reason.

She added: "We have had really good visitor numbers and we think it will be at least on a par with last year's numbers, if not better.

"We put on some events, like an Easter trail, which helped and we now have a hotel which we didn't have last year."

But not everyone was as happy with the Easter weekend trade.

The owner of Kentwell Hall said he was slightly disappointed with the number of people visiting the Long Melford attraction.

Patrick Phillips said: "Some days were good but others, like Saturday and Sunday, were not so good.

"The weather was cold but I was disappointed as I like to think we are not quite so weather dependant and we have lots of indoor activities."

The hall once again recreated its Easter themed Tudor recreation, taking people back to the year 1550 through their bakery, great kitchen and stillroom.

A spokesman for Suffolk police said the roads in the county had run relatively smoothly throughout yesterday .

However, there was a rush to DIY stores on the outskirts of Ipswich, leading to queues on approach roads.

Attractions in Essex were also busy, with Colchester Zoo recording one of their busiest days during the break.

Meanwhile, at Hollytrees Museum in Colchester the practices of Tudor medicine were on display with some of the strange cures for ills and ailments keeping the crowds entertained.

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