Photos by Gerard Binks
Cause UK helped raise the profile of How Stean Gorge, one of Yorkshire’s most awe-inspiring natural sights, after it reported a bumper year as the UK staycation boom continues. The story was picked up in the Yorkshire Post, Harrogate Advertiser series and Stray Ferret.
The independent and family-run visitor attraction has increased space in its indoor café and shop facilities.
How Stean Gorge has been attracting visitors for over 100 years. The hidden gem has existed for ten thousand years, since the last Ice Age and is so special its graded as a triple Site of Special Scientific Interest. The gorge features trout, bats hanging from its caves, numerous birds and fossils frozen in its limestone.
Stan and Ann Beer, owners of How Stean Gorge, said: “After a long and hard winter, negotiating lockdowns and Covid restrictions, we’re set to have our best year yet. The phone has been ringing off the hook, and bookings have increased two-fold. We’ve pro-actively moved facilities, built new ones, and employed new staff to meet the public’s demand for outdoor adventure.”
The adventure facility offers abseiling, gorge scrambling, caving, canoeing and a high wire via ferrata course – one of only three in the UK – as well as an upper pathway and caves suitable for the timid adventurer. The unique geography allows for rock sports and paddle sports.
The attraction now boasts 12 kayaks, 16 canoes and 200 wet suits for Gorge Walking. It has increased its main camp site from ten to 20 pitches, which is two-thirds capacity to maintain plenty of space for COVID-19 guidelines.
With web interest up 100% from May 2019, a 300% increase in school day visits and residential trips, and hen and stags catching up from wedding lockdowns, Stan and Ann have invested £55k on upgrading facilities, including a new 1000lt hot water system with underfloor heating in its shower block.
The team has installed a new shower, toilet and bunks in its Bunk House, a unique wild accommodation offer that sleeps up to 17, at Scar House Reservoir. The café has also had a bumper start to the year as people escape from the crowds into the wild open spaces.
One of the attraction’s recent additions was 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 extension is home to its dining offer, which has been updated with a pub-style menu, alongside increased space to seat 70 social distancing.
Stan added: “We’ve made our biggest profit yet this year, with the largest pre-bookings for activities. All our outdoor activities have been in huge demand, particularly the gorge walking and water sports. There’s been an increase across the board, from the number of school trips we now support to hen and stag-dos due to the backlog of weddings. There’s just a massive appetite out there to embrace life, get into the great outdoors and experience adventure again after such a long, isolating 15-months.”
Free Wi-Fi has also been installed across the whole site for visitors.
Since moving to Pateley Bridge in 1976, owner Stan Beer spent his days off volunteering at the Gorge and fell in love with the attraction. Stan and his wife Ann, a retired paramedic and nurse, swapped the NHS for the ‘Natural Health Service’ when they bought one of nature’s most spectacular sights in 2007.
This June, As Stan reaches his 70th birthday, the Gorge is now up for sale requiring younger blood to take up the challenge.
Over the years, the family has added to the café, camp site, high wire and has planning for 11 chalets and now employ specialist adventure guides to run their outdoor activity centre, which is very popular for families, corporate team building, educational visits and the stag and hen market.
Pre-COVID-19, 10,000 people booked its outdoor activities each year, with 20,000 visitors attending the café and venue. With eight full-time staff and many more part-time and casual staff, How Stean Gorge is a vital tourism attraction for Nidderdale’s rural economy.
The Victorians used to call How Stean Gorge, ‘Little Switzerland’.
How Stean Gorge Outdoor Activities, managed by Tony Liddy, has now been in operation for eleven years.
Stan added: “It’s gone from strength to strength whilst many operators in the field have fallen by the wayside. Our moto is, ‘Every customer should leave as a friend’, and I am so happy to have my name associated with How Stean Gorge.”