AROUND 40 people have lost their jobs after a Somerset tourist attraction closed its doors “for the foreseeable future”.

Longleat Enterprises said there was “great uncertainty” over the future of Cheddar Gorge and Caves, suggesting it is unlikely to reopen in 2021.

It said 40 members of staff will now be entering into a formal redundancy consultation process.

In a statement, it said: “Due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, Cheddar Caves and its attractions will be closed for the foreseeable future.

“The effect of the pandemic on our operations has been profound.

“Sadly, we do not envisage the attraction being viable for the remainder of 2020 and there is great uncertainty as to the trajectory of the virus in 2021 and the associated guidance and rules.

“With great regret amid the ongoing uncertainty and long timescales involved we have to consider making redundancies, which will affect the vast majority of our staff working at Cheddar.”

Somerset County Gazette:
VISITORS: Thousands of people take in the caves each year

At almost 400 feet deep and three miles long, the gorge is England’s largest and is generally open to the public, however some attractions within the reserve, including cave tours and rock climbing, have been closed as a response to Covid-19.

The attraction had planned to reopen some of its activities on July 27, but announced on the day that it was unable to due to “unforeseen circumstances”.

It is the latest of a string of companies suffering job losses as a result of declining business during the pandemic.

Earlier this month, analysis by the Institute for Employment Studies (IES) found it was likely the UK will be hit by around 450,000 redundancies in the coming months.

The caves are known around the world as being the home of Cheddar Man - a hunter-gatherer who lived around 10,000 years ago.

His skeleton - the oldest complete skeleton ever found in the UK - was discovered in Gough's Cave.