OWNERS of the Fairwater Head Hotel in Hawkchurch, near Lyme Regis, recently closed their doors due to the coronavirus outbreak – but it is not the first time their business has been affected by such a pandemic.
Nineteen years ago in March 2001, Adam and Carrie Southwell had to close their previous hotel, the Prince Hall Hotel on Dartmoor, due to the foot and mouth outbreak.
The farm that surrounded the hotel had to have a contiguous cull and destroy all cloven foot animals due to the outbreak.
Now it seems as if history is repeating itself, with Adam commenting: “There are very many similarities to what’s happening now as to then. We had to phone all bookings that had been made for the first month and cancel them. We then went forward in two-week blocks as we had no idea how long we were going to be in lock down or closed for business.
“We had to release all our staff as no one was allowed on site, except the property owners.
“We were in total lock down for over two weeks with a 24 hr police guard at the top of our shared drive. After that we were allowed out but only under strict bio security measures wearing white suits until we had left the property boundaries.
Adam was also the chairman of The Dartmoor Tourist Association at that time, representing hundreds of members from all around the moor and all types of tourist related businesses from tourist attractions, hotels, bed and breakfasts, restaurants and shops.
“We really had to fight our corner then as it was only farming and tourism that were very badly affected to a point of total closure,” he said.
“Life outside the affected area went on as normal and London didn’t know what all the fuss was about.”
Adam also had the opportunity to lobby then Prime Minister Tony Blair at a private meeting in Exeter with a few other tourism representatives and Malcolm Bell, then head of South West Tourism.
He continued: “Returning each time to our isolated hotel having chaired local tourism meeting or doing a live broadcast from some where on Dartmoor with pyres smouldering in the background was always very surreal, from a mad world out there to a very peaceful one that only a few shared.
“Carrie, my wife, was looking after our first son Thomas while also just pregnant with our second son, Oscar. She found it very hard living under the controls and would often leave to stay with her parents in Guilford, also away from the slaughter and stench.
“I had to stay around to look after the hotel and animals and do my DTA work.
“Our bank manager found out about our predicament when we were featured on the evening BBC News, his was our first call on the next Monday morning.
“Our situation also made the front cover of The Caterer and Hotel Keeper, a very bleak photo that always brings back mixed memories.
“Finally, having lobbied various government bodies and The Dartmoor National Park we were given a date to open in early July 2001 and life on Dartmoor could slowly rebuild but things could never be the same.
“I feel this will be the legacy of the world under COVID-19, we will all have to suffer this period but eventually things will change for the better but the world with never be quite the same.”