Summer Wine’s appeal lasts in location town

THE enduring charms of Nora Batty’s wrinkled stockings and Compo’s pranks are still providing a Yorkshire town with a tourism boom – almost two years after their final antics were broadcast.

The last episode of Last of the Summer Wine was first aired in August 2010 but TV repeats and the effective tourism marketing of Yorkshire’s delights have been credited with increasing interest in Holmfirth, the West Yorkshire town where the series was filmed.

Kirklees Council chiefs have responded to the greater enquiries by producing a new guide to film locations used in the long-running sitcom.

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The number of coach tours is said to have increased and Summer Wine-themed attractions are reporting better visitor numbers.

A council spokeswoman said: “After 37 years and 31 series one would have thought that interest in the locations would be on the wane.”

It appears that the opposite is happening.

Last year, Holmfirth’s tourist information centre dealt with more than 65,000 enquiries and staff have reported a rise in questions about Summer Wine.

Tourism chiefs believe that re-runs on TV channels Gold and Yesterday may be part of the reason for the renewed interest.

And international visitor numbers have also been strong as the show is broadcast by television stations in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

The council spokeswoman said re-runs played a large part in keeping the town on the tourism trail.

“Holmfirth was the setting for a lot of the action in the show including Nora Batty’s steps and Sid’s Café, and nearby Jackson Bridge is the home to the White Horse Inn which featured in many episodes and whose interior was reproduced in the studio by the BBC.

“At the height of its success the show was attracting 18.8 million viewers and its repeats can still attract up to five million.

“Coach tours from across the country still include Holmfirth as a venue because of its links to the show and Holmfirth Tourist Information Centre reported 65,324 visitor enquiries last year.

“Holmfirth is a great little market town and a large percentage of visitors come back time and time again.”

She said hundreds of coach tours called at Holmfirth every year.

Businessman Ashley Booth, of tourism itinerary organiser Ashley & Newey, said the popularity of Holmfirth “has not diminished in any way” during the past decade.

“The biggest customers for Yorkshire as a destination come from the South West, Somerset and Cornwall. Last of the Summer Wine is strong in the hearts of the people who watched it.”

He said the coach tours appealed to people over 50 and about 60 per cent were women.

Businesses in Holmfirth are reporting a rise in trade.

Susan Gardner, owner of the Wrinkled Stocking tea room and Summer Wine exhibition, said last month was the “best ever” for the exhibition, which was put together by the late Bill Owen, who played Compo.

“We have people from all over the world; all ages and all generations love the gentle humour. We have visitors from Ireland, Wales and the West Country.”

She said some locals grumbled about the enduring connection, but added: “It’s what put Holmfirth on the map – too many people say we have got to move on. We shouldn’t shoot ourselves in the foot.”

And Margaret Dale, of Keep Holmfirth Special, said: “Some might say that Last of the Summer Wine is history and that visitors are a nuisance but we don’t share those views.

“The best thing to do is use it (the show) and be pleased people are still keen to come here.”