THE future of an attraction credited as being the engine room of North Yorkshire’s tourist trade looks set to be secured with a second major boost in as many months.

Just weeks after stories which have seen The World Of James Herriot in Thirsk become an international visitor destination were featured in a new television series, Hambleton District Council has unveiled plans to offer the firm that rescued the museum a 30-year lease at a peppercorn rent.

The museum’s management said once Covid-19 restrictions are relaxed it is expecting a surge in visitors following the success of the latest All Creatures Great And Small series, featuring actors such as Diana Rigg and Nigel Havers.

The Channel 5 drama has attracted about six million viewers a week when the repeat shows are taken into account, and a further series has been commissioned.

Ian Ashton, managing director of the attraction, said the hit television show, alongside the continuing popularity of The Yorkshire Vet documentary series about the practice of Herriot author Alf Wight, would help cement a remarkable turnaround for the museum since his firm took over its running from Hambleton District Council eight years ago.

The attraction now includes Alf Wight’s fully-restored 1940s home and surgery, a life-like statue of the author, the car James Herriot drove and the television set where the original series was shot, an extensive veterinary collection and a chance to experience what it was like to hide in a Second World War air raid shelter.

Mr Ashton said: “When you think what has been developed since we took over in 2012, when the whole thing was falling apart, we’ve now got a very successful TV series, and Channel 5’s The Yorkshire Vet has been a tremendous boon for us. Yorkshire is now doing extremely well on television and will continue to do so. The future is bright.”

Mr Ashton said while the attraction had been shut down due to the pandemic, it had been fortunate to receive some Government funding, so the venture had not suffered as much as some others in the county’s extensive tourism industry.

He said: “We rely on people coming in from all over the world, which account for about 30 per cent of our visitors, but due to the new All Creatures Great And Small series and The Yorkshire Vet, it’s likely the number of UK visitors will increase in the next few years. We probably won’t be so reliant on the import market as we have in the past.”

Ahead of Hambleton council’s cabinet considering a proposal to extend the firm’s lease on the Kirkgate attraction until 2050, Mr Ashton said the authority could not have been more supportive.

A report to the cabinet which recommends offering Mr Ashton’s firm the lease at below market value, describes the attraction as “a museum of international attraction, contributing significantly to the local economy”.

Mr Ashton said the extension of the lease at The World of James Herriot would strengthen the attraction’s ability to raise external grants and funds during uncertain times against the security of the premises for the continued investment, preservation and development of the museum over future years.

He said: “This will secure the future for the World of James Herriot. I see a long-term future for it. It gives security, which is a great thing for the staff.

“At the end of the day we are a very important player for Yorkshire and in particular Thirsk and the surrounding area. Now that we have built up the name and the company again we need the security of a lease until 2050.  I’m delighted, because when you’re running a business like this you need the security for the business itself and the people who are in it.”