Calls to make Ripon canal more of a tourist destination

What do you think about Ripon canal's tourism offer?
What do you think about Ripon canal's tourism offer?

A Ripon city councillor said the success of new businesses along the city’s canal basin highlights the need to continue driving forward a regeneration of the area.

The Mindfulspace Wellbeing Company, opened by Gail Donnan in January this year to offer sessions including meditation, yoga, pilates and mindfulness coaching, has just expanded to offer a new therapy studio next door.

Coun Willis, who founded the Ripon Canal Society in 1982, and now runs the Ripon Canal Carrying Company offering canal tours, said the mindfulness space and the Azuri beauty salon opposite have increased footfall along the stretch, and emphasised the potential the canal has to be developed further as a tourism hotspot.

He said: “With the new businesses, with Gail and the salon, people have been visiting here all the time. It has meant a greater footfall. I’ve had the canal tour office for 11 years, and it’s been a bit sterile down here over the years. But these are more people-orientated businesses, and we’re now seeing more visitors.

“Ripon needs another tourist destination, that’s alive and energetic. The canal could be used more to draw in tourists, we just need an anchor.”

Welcome to Yorkshire’s North Yorkshire area director David Shields, said: “I think the canal is something that has been a little bit of a hidden gem. It is there, but maybe we all need to make sure that it is promoted a little bit more to increase footfall. Hopefully that will then attract more visitors and even more businesses there.

“It is a bit of a chicken and egg situation, there is a really good visitor offer at the canal, it’s a beautiful area. But you need more facilities down there. We need to promote the canal more as an important part of Ripon’s overall offer with the Cathedral, Market Square, racecourse and museums.”

Gail Donnan, the owner of The Mindfulspace Wellbeing Space, said the canal basin has transformed since she moved to the city 15 years ago. She said: “These buildings were empty for over a year, and it was derelict in places along here. But a customer recently referred to this part of Ripon as a wellbeing quarter, and it suggests that people are starting to see the canal basin as somewhere they can come to relax and feel refreshed.

“I am really passionate about opening up the space to the community.”

The owner of the Azuri beauty salon, Georgia Burns, said: “Our salon is in the original lock keeper’s house. It was left empty for many years which is such a shame.

“Ripon and this area have massively transformed. People used to stick more just to the Market Square, but I think they’re having the courage now to try elsewhere and venture down here more. I wanted to create a little retreat for people to come and escape the everyday. I am pleased that we are keeping this historic building alive, and that we’re keeping its traditions and character.”

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