Image credit: Piers Taylor
The new Visitor Centre and Boat Museum in Watchet has seen a record number of visitors in its first month of opening. Following its launch at the end of July and thanks to curious locals and good numbers of visitors to Watchet this year, the brand new facility has been busy!
Watchet Visitor Centre Manager, Louise Body says:
“We are thrilled and very proud of the positive response towards the new Visitor Centre, and visitors are loving the newly restored Boat Museum which is proving to be a great hit with young children. Donations to the Boat Museum are up and the shop is also doing well. This is better than we had projected, so we are extremely happy!”
The brand new purpose built Watchet Visitor Centre, and repaired Boat Museum opened its doors on 21st July. It is open 7 days a week, from 10am – 5pm and acts as a first-stop for visitors to Watchet. The project is a shining example of what community-led regeneration can achieve. Long and in depth discussions with a huge cross section of local people in 2014 has led, via community collaboration, hard work, grant funding and importantly Community Asset Transfer of land from the Council, to this new tourism facility for the town.
Funded by EDF Energy’s, section 106 monies through the Hinkley Point C Community Mitigation Fund and Trusthouse Charitable Foundation, the project has been built and is run by community-led social enterprise Onion Collective CIC. The building also houses the offices for Watchet Town Council.
Onion Collective Director, Naomi Griffith says:
“When we first started this process, some of the issues we wanted to help solve were around improving the welcome to Watchet as you arrive, helping to better celebrate Watchet’s maritime cultural heritage and also improve the flow of visitors to the top of Swain Street. The Boat Museum was, at that time, only getting 4,000 visitors a year so to have achieved that annual number of visitors in the first month is wonderful. The new building helps Watchet appear loved and cared for and anecdotal evidence is that more visitors are walking down the top of Swain Street. So that’s great news. We are enormously pleased.”
The project has taken just 2 years, from initial concept ideas to build completion and follows extensive community consultation in 2014, when local people were asked: ‘what does Watchet need for a stronger future?’ the results clearly showed that a stronger tourism offer was needed, that better use should be made of the facilities that Watchet already has and that Watchet’s maritime and cultural heritage should be better and more loudly celebrated.
The Boat Museum is still run by the Friends of the Flatner Association, and has kept its original quirky and idiosyncratic feel, but with some substantial repairs to the main building and the addition of large glazed doors and windows to attract light into the building. The internal structures to exhibit the boats have been built entirely by local volunteers as part of a project called Watchet Community Makers, where skilled volunteers share their skills with others in mutual support.
The Boat Museum is in real need of volunteers to help steward the facility. If you are interested in helping please contact Bruce Scott at tel: 01984 632101 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information about the Visitor Centre and Boat Museum go to www.watchetvisitorcentre.co.uk You can also find us on Facebook at: www.facebook.com/watchetvisitorcentre