A STATELY home is seeing the silver lining after the Covid-19 cloud by experiencing its busiest ever July.

After closing to visitors in March and watching the normally busy Easter period pass by, the charity behind Kiplin Hall and Gardens near Catterick suffered significant losses.

But despite opening for just 12 days in June, visitor figures were just 100 short of June 2019 when open five days per week.

And July has been a record-breaking month for the estate, with 2,833 visitors generating £12,718 in admissions income during just 14 days of trading.

Director James Etherington said: “Our core audience is largely retired couples. However, following lockdown we saw a huge rise in the number of families with young children visiting.

"We think largely due to advice for the over 70s to isolate when possible and the need for small children to run off steam after being indoors for weeks.

The Northern Echo:

Kiplin Hall and Gardens director James Etherington

"These families are also coming from very local locations. 63 per cent from DL postcodes and 25 per cent from the surrounding postcodes, only 12 per cent from further afield.

"We had to pivot our working style to continue to reach these new visitors.

"For example, working harder on social media and changing our marketing approach.

"Working even more closely with local papers and contacting grass roots community-based newsletters to best reach the local population.”

“A key draw for families has also been the provision of pizza picnics, especially while our Tea Room remains closed.

"Mark Craggs normally works as a waiter for us during the week, running his own business, Proper Pizzas, at the weekends.

"His wood fired pizza oven is housed in a converted horse box with a serving hatch.

"This quirky set up is normally found catering at weddings and festivals, all of which were cancelled. "Bringing Proper Pizzas on site has meant that we can offer visitors refreshments and earn money through the shared takings.

"This has been of real benefit to both parties. It’s also very much in keeping with the essence of Kiplin Hall & Gardens.”

The Northern Echo:

Visitors enjoying a Proper Pizza at Kiplin Hall

Curator, Sarah Mayhew Craddock explains “As a passionate horse rider, an industrious individual and having nursed soldiers on the Austro-Italian border in WWII Bridget Talbot )the last owner of Kiplin Hall, credited with saving it for the nation) would have thoroughly approved of a horse-trailer pizza company on her drive!”

As many other attractions re-opened their doors on August 1 and beyond, staff and volunteers at Kiplin wish them every success and safe return to operation.

Kiplin has witnessed 400 years' worth of the world's ups and downs.

It has seen civil war, the whole reign of Queen Victoria, the Industrial Revolution, two World Wars and more than one pandemic.

It has survived dereliction to become a gem in the region’s crown.

With careful management it will survive this too, with photographs of people queuing in socially distanced lines across the drive to enjoy a pizza from a horse box sure to be featured in exhibitions in 50- or 100-years' time.