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Holiday trade hit by 'horrendous weather'

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West country holiday firms have blamed "unpredictable weather" for a dip in bookings over the Easter holidays.
Somerset caravan parks had to close grass pitches, and a Gloucestershire steam railway was "very quiet".
But indoor venues recorded strong trade as people took shelter in swimming pools and on the Weston Grand Pier.
Sarah Spottiswoode from Unity Park, Brean, said: "If the sun is out, people feel like spending money."
The Met Office said Somerset saw the wettest February since records began, and March saw twice the average rainfall across southern counties.
For Sarah Spottiswoode and her team at Unity Holiday Park in Brean it made a tough decision easy.
"We had to close our 76 grass caravan pitches," the park director told me.
That meant Easter holiday plans upended at the last minute for 76 families, but all except 11 decided to re-book for the summer, presumably hoping for better weather.
The park has been welcoming campers, caravanners and holiday lodge guests since a scout group turned up on the Somerset coast in 1948.
The park has seen its share of wet and windy weather.
"This year we've wind, we've had rain, we've had sun – and sometimes all on the same day," Mrs Spottiswoode told me.
She knows how crucial good weather is to her family business.
"If it's miserable day after day, it hits people and they don't want to spend money."
Across Somerset, the majority of tourism firms reported a drop in Easter trade.
A survey for Visit Somerset, the county's tourism association, found two thirds reporting turnover down by up to 5%.
A further 12% – one in eight – said their trade had fallen more than 5%.
John Turner, Chief Exec of Visit Somerset, calculated the impact of the weather.
He said: "A 5% fall in accommodation is around a £50 million shortfall over the year. It's very concerning."
So who is bucking the trend?
People whose businesses are under cover.
At Weston-super-Mare, the famous Grand Pier made the most of its huge covered pavilion.
"We are on the coast, but out of the weather," the pier's director Michelle Michael explained.
The family business Ms Michael runs is perfectly suited to both Somerset's unpredictable weather and the tight budgets people have currently.
They charge £1 to come onto the Grand Pier, where the Pavilion is home to traditional 'penny-pushers' fed by just a two-penny piece.
On average, people spend just £12 a head on a visit.
"People are looking for a value day out," said Ms Michael. "We've been busy, and most of Weston has been busy too."
Outside the Pier we chatted to one young mum at the end of a "tricky" week's holiday with her two daughters.
Rachel Deer from Liverpool said: "Obviously the weather has been very difficult, it's been wet and very very windy.
"It's hard because you've got to find ways to entertain the kids without it getting very expensive."
In the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire, Perrygrove steam railway was "very quiet" according to manager Katherine Nelson-Brown.
She said: "The weather has been horrendous, which has been the biggest negative impact by far. The area as a whole has seemed very quiet."
The soggy spring also put a dampener on glamping.
Upmarket yurts at Mrs Mills Glamping site got off to a slow start.
Niki Mills said: "Some less-than-ideal weather seems to have slowed bookings for a glamping getaway."
But others say they found investing in indoor spaces had paid off.
Lauren Kiddy from Whitemead Forest Park, said their Easter had been "really successful" with an influx of last-minute bookings.
She explained: "We had a massive refurbishment within our food & beverage area, which has had great feedback so far."
Naturally, as the children went back to school, the sun came out.
At Warren Farm holiday park, Brean, manager Paul Bowkett smiled ruefully as he inspected his grass caravan pitches, which make up 60% of the space available for touring caravanners.
"These have been shut for three weeks," he told me.
"Today we opened the grass pitches for the first time, and we have one booking.
"Still, caravanners are a hardy bunch and they'll be back in the summer."
Back on Weston Pier, Rachel Deer's daughter Annabel tells us she still had a "great time."
And the best bit of a holiday on the Somerset coast?
"Going to the chippy," she giggles.
Some things never change.
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