THE initial Coronavirus lockdown and a Spring heatwave led to many people taking up new sports and adrenaline-fuelled activities.
And that in turn sparked support of local venues and destinations combining food and drink with the delights of the great outdoors.
Taste North East Wales is being held virtually this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic but social distancing is less of an issue for those businesses who benefit from the beauty of their surroundings.
Among them is One Planet Adventure, the café, shop and mountain biking hub in Llandegla forest.
The series of walking and cycling trails – which attract visitors from across the UK – have continued to be busy throughout the summer, though director Jim Gaffney says they too have faced challenges and were forced to close for several months.
They have introduced new events – including regular barbecues using local produce – so people can still enjoy a hearty meal and socialise safely after completing their exercise.
“Things are steadily getting back to normal, though we were forced to close for three months and missed out on that incredible Spring weather,” said Jim.
“We’ve increased the space outside, changed the layout of the car park and are starting to think long term about how we move forward in the wake of the Coronavirus.
“Business picked up, especially in August, but of course we have to remain focused because our success this winter is weather dependent.”
He added: “One positive is the number of first-time visitors, those people who took up cycling during lockdown and want to keep active.
“Because the café is still closed we are doing take-outs and also regular barbecues with fabulous meat from our local butcher, so they’re able to stop and have something to eat with us, either on the decking, picnic benches or under the marquee, with social distancing in place – that has proven to be popular.”
Colleen Tou, owner of Honey’s Riverside Bakery and Cafe in Caergwrle, near Wrexham, says they have also seen more people combining visits to their premises and sporting pastimes since lockdown ended.
“We have the river here and since July get a lot of cyclists and people visiting us before and after taking part in water sports and kayaking at Park in the Past and Hope lake – it’s been a hive of activity,” said Colleen.
“We closed for a couple of weeks at the start of lockdown but have been very busy in past weeks with people coming here and home deliveries. Afternoon tea has been especially popular and all our baked goods are homemade and appreciated so much after some serious exercise.”
Taste North East Wales is organised by Clwydian Range Food and Drink and Llangollen and Dee Valley Food and Drink, with the support of Cadwyn Clwyd, the Clwydian Range and Dee Valley AONB and the local authorities of Flintshire, Wrexham and Denbighshire.
This project has received funding through the Welsh Government Rural Communities – Rural Development Programme 2014-2020, which is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the Welsh Government.
Donna Hughes, Business Partnerships Officer at Cadwyn Clwyd, said the initial burst of sunshine and hot weather provided a welcome distraction from the first weeks of Coronavirus in the UK.
“Being stuck at home with few options but to exercise and explore new interests led to many people in the region running, walking, cycling and lots of other physical activities,” said Donna.
“Our local businesses capitalised on that and coupled their services with that surge in demand for food and drink outdoors.
“It is great to see that continued when the cafes, pubs, restaurants and hospitality businesses reopened in July, and we hope it will carry on over the months ahead, when they need it most.”
Taste North East Wales has united with local businesses to record a series of short films to promote the best of the region’s food, drink and hospitality. Watch here on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCnYDulvwaKJST5tLWZEFdpg