Stump Cross Caverns are believed to have been formed around half-a-million years ago, with the limestone cave system in North Yorkshire discovered in 1860 by lead miners and being open to the public ever since.
But that rich history has been put at risk by the impact of the Covid pandemic and in particular lockdown closures and social distancing restrictions.
Owners of the family-run attraction, which is located between Pateley Bridge and Grassington in the Yorkshire Dales, say ticket sales have fallen by over £350,000 in the past year as visitor numbers have plummeted from their usual 60,000 to just £15,000.
To help prevent its doors closing for good, Stump Cross hopes to raise £53,000 in funds through its latest two-part crowdfunder appeal.
The site’s owners, Lisa Bowerman and Nick Markham, have put their own luxury Volkswagen T30 Campervan up as the prize in the first draw, which costs £10 to enter.
Alongside this, in return for pledging £2, the second appeal offers the chance to take part in a £500 draw, with five prizes worth £100 each up for grabs. Each winner will receive memorable Stump Cross experiences, all activated upon the site reopening.
Since the launch of the fundraising campaigns, more than £24,000 has already been raised with over 1,300 people entering the prize draws.
Lisa Bowerman says: “We’ve worked tirelessly to offer an outstanding experience to all our customers since we took ownership of Stump Cross Caverns 18 years ago.
“Visitors have marvelled at the magical splendour the caves have to offer thanks to its beautiful grottos and benefited from the recent refurbishment of our café, 50-seater cinema, and exclusive chill out zone, known as the Time Out Pod.
“Sadly, all of this is under threat unless we raise vital funds to keep us up and running.
“Our latest crowdfunder appeals will hopefully mean that we can continue to welcome visitors to the Caverns for many years to come.
“By pledging donations, our supporters will not only have the chance to win some truly amazing prizes, including our very own state-of-the-art VW Campervan and five memorable Stump Cross experiences, but they will also be helping us and our local suppliers, continue trading and keep tourism alive in the Yorkshire Dales.”
Due to its natural and cultural importance Stump Cross is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
Bones of Ice Age creatures have been discovered in the caverns including reindeer, wolverine and bison and some are now on display in the visitor centre.
Its cave system extends well beyond the public access show caves, to an overall length of approximately 6km.
Many of the deeper caverns are only accessible to experienced cavers, but there are plans to open further sections in the future.
As part of efforts to keep people connected with the caves during lockdown, it is possible to take part in an interactive online virtual 3D tour of them, created by Leeds-based Apollo3D, and featured on the Stump Cross Caverns website.
Donations to the crowdfunders and entry into the prize draws must be completed by noon on Tuesday March 30.
The winners of the twin draws will be announced live from 8pm the following day.
For more information on the appeal and to purchase tickets, visit www.crowdfunder.co.uk/vw-campervan-prize-draw--it-could-be-you or www.crowdfunder.co.uk/prize-draw-win-up-to-5-prizesThe online tour can be viewed via the Stump Cross Caverns website, www.stumpcrosscaverns.co.uk.
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