A visitor attraction featuring one of Yorkshire’s most ancient natural wonders is under new management with a huge face-lift.
How Stean Gorge in Nidderdale has existed for ten thousand years, since the last Ice Age. Graded as a triple Site of Special Scientific Interest, the gorge hosts amazing geological formations, features bats hanging from its caves and fossils frozen in its limestone.
The adventure facility offers abseiling, gorge scrambling, caving, canoeing and a high ropes via ferrata course – one of only three in the UK – as well as the Gorge & Caves upper pathway suitable for the timid adventurer. The unique geography of How Stean allows for all their activities to take place in one location in Nidderdale.
It currently has a 20-pitch campsite but a new five-year plan will see the instalment of 11 new chalets, including luxury accommodation with hot tubs and wood burning stoves.
To date, four chalets are under construction with an opening date at the end of April with a further 2 set for completion by July.
Tony Liddy, 33, and his partner Rebecca Verity, 29, Company Directors are set to take on the management of this amazing site.
Tony said: “We’re transforming the site with these ambitious expansion plans with an eco-friendly build in fitting with the spectacular setting. So far, we’ve planted around a hundred trees around the new chalets, to act as natural fencing along with 600+ bare root hedging whips to create a healthily habitat for years to come. We have a huge demand in the adventure tourism including family holidays, hen, stag and corporate parties looking to do group activities, and our additional lodges offer will help bolster that market.”
The new chalets offer the only group-scale accommodation in this tourism hotspot, sleeping up to 10 people per chalet. Bookings for hen and stag parties have doubled since Covid restrictions ended.
Online enquiries have also shot up as the appetite for outdoor activities and UK staycations increased as a result of the pandemic.
Tony said: “It’s been incredible, there’s just a massive appetite out there to embrace life, get into the great outdoors and experience adventure again. Groups of friends who have missed out the last two years are ready to get out, enjoy and make new and better memories.”
The attraction was owned by married couple Stan and Ann Beer since 2007, and Tony and Rebecca worked closely with the Beers for many years.
The attraction has already undergone significant upgrade in the last year with Stan and Ann continuing to invest in the site, including a new 1000lt hot water system with underfloor heating in its shower block and new kitchen facilities. The team has also installed a new shower, toilet and bunks in its Bunk House at based at Scar House Reservoir, a unique wild accommodation offer that sleeps up to 17.
In 2017, it built a cantilevered extension with glass walls and glass floor panels that sits over the gorge, which is over half a mile in length and up to twenty metres deep. The glass floored extension is home to its dining offer, which has seen an updated with a pub-style menu, alongside increased space to seat 80. The cafe is also undergoing renovations in the coming months.
How Stean Gorge has been attracting visitors for over 100 years.
Tony has worked as outdoor activity instructor for 16 years, becoming Head of Outdoor Activities 10 years ago and Rebecca ran the internal offer, for 13 years. Tony’s brother, Dan Liddy, has also joined the team this year as the new Head of Outdoor Activities as Tony takes on the managerial role.
Tony said: “We’re very proud to be continuing the values of Stan and Ann, who we have all worked alongside for so many years. We owe them a huge amount and learnt so much from them. They helped raise How Stean Gorge into a leading visitor attraction, as well as a vital lifeline for local employment and our rural economy. It’s a fantastic legacy, and we are incredibly excited to take that on and build on that hard work.”
Stan Beer fell in love with the gorge after moving to Pateley Bridge in 1976. A retired paramedic with Ann, a retired nurse, he said he swapped the NHS for the ‘Natural Health Service’ when they bought one of nature’s most spectacular sights. The couple are now heading to retirement to enjoy themselves.
Pre-COVID-19, 10,000 people booked its outdoor activities each year, with 20,000 visitors attending the café and venue.
Footfall to the attraction is now set to increase with all the exciting changes ahead and the new lodges allowing to extend into the shoulder months of year.
How Stean Gorge is a vital tourism attraction for Nidderdale’s rural economy. The attraction now boasts an amazing team of 18 full and part-time staff, with a further ten casual instructors on its books.
Plans are also in place to revamp its visitor centre, with new interpretation boards with previously unseen historic surveys and maps of its 10km cave network.
It has increased outdoor facilities to 12 kayaks, 16+ canoes and over 200 wet suits for Gorge Walking. Free Wi-Fi has also been installed across the whole site for visitors.