Improvements planned for Old Town Quarry to attract more visitors

PUBLISHED: 08:00 01 May 2016

The Old Town Quarry.

The Old Town Quarry.

Archant

Weston's civic leaders have started the process to make the town's quarry and nature reserve pay for itself and attract more visitors to secure its future.

Quarry entrance.Quarry entrance.

The Old Town Quarry in South Road is leased by Weston Civic Society, which at one point was spending up to £9,000 a year on it.

The quarry has around 20 tenants, who run the Rowan Tree Tea Room, and use the reserve for art, woodworking and ceramics.

Greg Thacker, who is on the society’s committee and has been working on the quarry project, said there had been doubts over whether the society could keep the quarry open.

He said: “Regrettably, it was a substantial drain on the financial resources, and this was unsustainable in the long-term, if not the short-term.

“I am sure the tenants and those involved are aware of the fragility of the quarry’s future unless changes took place.

“The tenants not only embraced the change, but made suggestions for improvements.

“Over the past few months, we have been meeting with art groups and there are a number of possibilities to increase the income of the quarry.

“Last year was not a drain on finances, but we are not yet at the stage where the quarry is self-sufficient.”

Rowan Tea Room interior.Rowan Tea Room interior.

In the past 12 months, the society has replaced unsafe lighting in the café and covered its walls with white boards to make it easier for artists to display their work.

The gift shop has also been moved out of the café to maximise the space.

Artists have booked the café for exhibitions for the whole of 2016, with events already planned for 2017.

Mr Thacker said: “The whole environment has been improved.

The Gift Shop and Museum.The Gift Shop and Museum.

“For the quarry to be successful, we need to encourage more people to visit us.

“This brings its own challenges, with the need for car parking space at times, and improved toilet facilities.”

Brian Ruse, the society’s treasurer, said if the society had not paid for repairs, then the quarry would have broken even for the year.

He said the plan for new toilets has been agreed in principle by the committee.

Mr Ruse said: “This will make it a nice place to visit, and encourage people to come up here.

“Having more exhibitions encourages attendance and keeps the place going.”

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