Cream o’ Galloway Visitor Centre has announced its Adventure Playground is to close as the impact of physical distancing due to Covid-19 restrictions has made the activity not viable.
The extensive woodland playground includes kart tracks, a 3-D maze, a 50ft tree-top viewing tower, flying fox, drop slide, obstacle course and a popular suspended netting network called Go Boing. The playground adjoins the ice cream visitor centre where it is accessed by wooden bouncy bridges.
The company says the nature of the playground, some areas of which include unpredictable motion designed to bounce people together, means that it is not financially viable to open the playground while physical distancing restrictions remain.
In a statement published on the company’s social media channels this evening, Cream o’ Galloway said:
“Like many local businesses the impact of Covid-19 has been deeply challenging for us and our team. The need to physically distance has meant the closure of some of our most loved activities, like Go Boing and the indoor play areas. It has also meant we have had to drastically reduce the number of people who can visit our playground.
“Our Adventure Playground was designed to bring people together, not to keep people apart. Despite our best efforts to make it work, and despite government funding for which we are immensely grateful, we do not believe our Adventure Playground is viable while physical distancing requirements remain.
“Therefore, while none of us can know what will happen in the months ahead, we do not expect to re-open the Adventure Playground at Cream o’ Galloway. We know this will be disappointing to many people, and we are sorry. Our priority at this time is to protect the business as a whole, in order to protect the jobs the business sustains.”
All other parts of Cream o’ Galloway will continue to operate, including ice cream manufacturing, ice cream sales, ice cream café and scooping counters, walking and nature trails, and crazy golf. Food tourism experiences will be increased. These will include ice cream making workshops for children and adults, full day cheese making courses which were piloted earlier this year, and some new farm tours.
Cream o’ Galloway’s sister company, The Ethical Dairy, will have an enhanced presence in the visitor centre for cheese retail sales and for the provision of information about the cow with calf organic dairy farming system pioneered on the farm.
The Visitor Centre closed for the 2020 season last weekend (1 November), and it is expected to re-open in early 2021. Managing Director Wilma Finlay met with members of staff today (Tuesday 3 November) to update employees on plans for the business.
The decision to close the Adventure Playground and focus on the core products – ice cream and food tourism – is being made to protect permanent year-round jobs, and to retain the knowledge of long serving employees within the business. More than half of the permanent members of staff have over 15 years’ experience. It is hoped there will be no need for redundancies.
“The decision to close the playground has been made with a very heavy heart. The Adventure Playground has been an important part of Cream o’ Galloway for almost as long as we’ve been in business.
“This is not the first tourism shut-down or economic crisis we’ve experienced. We survived foot and mouth disease in 2001 by the skin of our teeth, and the recession ten years ago caused big challenges too, so we know how to get through difficult times. However, the impact of covid involves some very specific challenges that have forced us to rethink how we do things.
“There are enormous costs with running an attraction like this – the insurance and maintenance costs for the playground are eye-watering.
“Covid has meant that over an 18 month period we will have had only 7 weeks of almost-normal trading. Even then, during that period of relative normality, we had to reduce the number of people who could enter the playground by 60% to enable social distancing. The numbers simply don’t stack up.
“Looking ahead to 2021, with no foreseeable end to covid in the short term, we need to make difficult decisions now in order to protect the jobs of the people who work here. Sadly, that means the playground can’t re-open.”
Cream o’ Galloway was started by Wilma Finlay more than twenty five years ago (1994) making high quality ice cream from ‘simple and natural’ ingredients, including milk from the family farm, Rainton, run by her husband David.
The popularity of the ice cream soon saw visitors flock to the site, and the business developed into a family visitor attraction. The hand-built playground has expanded greatly since the company started, with new activities added regularly over many years.
Visits by members of the public to Cream o’ Galloway have directly influenced how Rainton Farm has developed. Questions by people taking part in farm tours prompted David and Wilma to explore leaving the dairy calves with their mums rather than separating them within a day of birth, as is standard practice on most dairy farms.
This pioneering approach, introduced in 2016 after more than a decade of planning and experimentation, means Rainton Farm is now Europe’s largest cow with calf dairy, and it has won a number of prestigious awards for its high-welfare approach to farming.
“We feel privileged that our playground has been part of the happy memories of local families and visitors to our region. We will always be grateful for what Cream o’ Galloway has taught us, and for the questions we’ve been asked. People visiting the playground and the farm have been instrumental in motivating us to change to a more ethical way of farming.
“Covid is now forcing us to move into a new phase for Cream o’ Galloway, but we are determined to continue to offer high quality visitor experiences. We will be working hard over the winter, in consultation with our staff, to finalise the details of the changes we are making to covid-proof the business, and we will publish details of our plans as soon as we can.”