Gorey Guardian

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Distance not a problem with plenty of open space at Wells

As tourist attractions reopen, we pay a visit to see how they are adapting to life in the Covid-19 era. This week, Cathy Lee went to soak up the atmosphere and quiet calm of Wells House near Ballyedmond

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Nicola Conway with her son, Evan, and Mary Tomkins

Nicola Conway with her son, Evan, and Mary Tomkins

Cathy Lee with proprietor Sabine Rosler at Wells House

Cathy Lee with proprietor Sabine Rosler at Wells House

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Nicola Conway with her son, Evan, and Mary Tomkins

Having had its gates open for just over a month now, Wells House and Gardens has adapted very well to the 'new normal' in a way that creates a relaxed atmosphere for visitors of all ages.

The popular 450-acre north Wexford tourist attraction has not lost one bit of its charm of sights and sounds, and definitely presents an opportunity to escape from day to day worries and concerns.

During their visit, guests can appreciate the secure and vast open space at Wells as there is much to see and explore, from the animal farm to the playground and the woodland walks.

Two booking slots are available per day to limit capacity, and all visitors are asked to respect the time slot they are given as well as the social distancing guidelines to keep two metres apart.

About half-way down the lane as you arrive at Wells, you are met with a friendly face who takes your contact and booking details, in the interest of contact tracing. Guests are then guided to where they can park, and directed to where the visitors' centre is to start their visit to Wells.

The quiet tranquillity is noticeable straight away, as there are no events on this summer, and the only others present are families and friends - not to mention the abundance of wildlife that calls the Ballyedmond site home.

The open space at Wells gives comfort and a sense of safety. There is very little congregation of groups as the numbers are being very well managed.

The woodland walks and fairy trails present the perfect opportunity for fresh air and these can be taken at your own pace.

Even in the playground, the equipment is well-spaced out, which both children and parents appreciate.

There are six large hand sanitising stations across the grounds, with toilets being regularly cleaned and checked as well as rubbish bins.

Works are continuing constantly, with a carpenter on site full time.

It was clear from the smiling faces of parents and children, that Wells presents them with the perfect outlet to get of the house and have some fun.

With plenty of ice-cream to go around for the children, adults enjoyed their coffees too from the café where social distancing measures are, of course, being taken. Screens are in place for staff at the café and visitors' centre and there are plenty of outdoor tables and benches to sit back and take in the scenery unique to Wells House and Gardens.

There are plenty of areas for picnics, but barbecues are not allowed.

The family-friendly animals are keen to get up-close at the wildlife sanctuary, where you can see the meerkat families with their new-born babies, the raccoons, the peacock roaming around, as well as the pygmy goats to name but a few.

The team is currently looking into the option of having a petting element to the sanctuary, as they apply for their Fáilte Ireland Safety Charter.

Above all, there is a vast mix of colour at Wells as flowers of all shapes and sizes are in bloom, which only adds to the atmosphere.

Proprietor Sabine Rosler said that making do and adapting at a reasonable pace was a key part of re-opening.

'We are so glad to be back and it took quite a lot of preparation to get open again. Things were changing day on day, but I compiled everything from the Construction Federation, Failte Ireland, the self-catering and restaurant association.

'The first week back open after June 8 was quiet, but the people who came in were feeling confident. I've been checking in with our customers and they've all been happy.

'The second and third week picked up but as soon as July kicked in, the numbers increased even more. The weekends tend to be very busy, but I checked in again with the customers and they agreed that everyone was keeping up with the social distancing. They had plenty of space and they didn't feel in any way intimidated or uncomfortable. Safety of our customers and staff is paramount,' she said.

Sabine said she had to come to terms with the fact that 2020 would have to be a write-off year for Wells financially due to the cancellation of events.

'Obviously most of our income comes in during the four summer months, usually from the restaurant and events, so as far as income for summer 2020 goes, we're wiped out. The wage-subsidy has been a huge help as well as the re-start grant from Wexford County Council, but the reality is that we won't have any reserves to carry us into the winter, so we're closing on September 30 and we don't plan to re-open until March 14, 2021.

'In a way, there's an opportunity there, as we need to do an all-site sewage system, and we're doing that this winter,' she said,

It is the first time in Wells history that it will not be open for the winter months as a result of the pandemic, but all at Wells hope that the next three months will see a the support of visitors, new and returning.

Sabine said that the accommodation cottages on site are proving very popular, as people from Wexford and beyond enjoy their 'staycation' this summer.

A visit to Wells House and Gardens is priced at €10 per car, and it is advised to book online via the website or Eventbrite.

Call 053 9186737 for more information, but visitors should note that tickets are non-refundable and may not be exchanged for another date or time slot.

Seasonal pass holders should not that they still need to book in a time slot but can choose the free option.

Visit wellshouse.ie for more.

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