Dudley Canal Trust named top visitor attraction for third year running
Staff at Dudley Canal Trust are celebrating after they were named one of the top visitor attractions in England for the third year running.
The trust and Limestone Mines were named in the best told story category in the 2018 Attractions Accolades by VisitEngland.
Dudley Canal and Tunnel Trust was created to protect and preserve the tunnels, and runs regular guided trips through the tunnels, accompanied by videos, lifelike reconstructions and music and light shows.
The attraction often attracts more than 80,000 visitors every year.
Traci Dix-Williams, the trust's chief executive, said: "We are really ecstatic, we believe there is a lot of stories to be told centred around the tunnels and canals and by having that verified by an external body is really the icing on the cake for us, it really spurs us on.
"Being a vibrant part of the community and the trust running for more than 50 years, its a national award so it is really important because it means we are getting it right."
She added: "Some of our trustees were teenagers when they started, they recognised 50 years ago how important the tunnels and caverns were, and they are the trustees today, so the award is really symbolic of their vision.
"They were called anarchistic teenagers for rebelling because they were determined to get the tunnels open, so its lovely that they are still here.
"It is such a unique environment, with people putting a hard hat on, climbing aboard a boat and disappearing underground, you just take them into a whole new environment that makes them really receptive to all the information, it gives them chance to connect to all our ancestors that were underground."
The British Transport Commission officially closed and sealed the Dudley Canal Tunnel in 1962. Faced with the loss of a unique nationally important site, local people re-opened the tunnel and fought to restore it to working order. The Dudley Tunnel Preservation Society, was formed in 1963 and changed its name to Dudley Canal Trust in 1970. They have spent 50 years restoring, conserving and trying to secure the future of the tunnel.
The Dudley Canal Trust and Limestone Mines was among 16 visitor attractions awarded an accolade by VisitEngland in the West Midlands – including Staffordshire's National Arboretum and Hartlebury Castle, near Kidderminster.
It also includes Cadbury World, Thinktank Birmingham, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, Winterbourne House and Garden, Sarehole Mill, the Coffin Works, the British Motor Museum, Eastnor Castle, the Cotswold Distillery, World of Wedgwood, the Emma Bridgewater Factory and RSPB Coombes Valley in Leek.
In total, 76 attractions across England including museums, galleries, farm attractions, and churches, have been highlighted following an in-depth annual assessment by expert judges recognising the quality of visitor experiences.
They were based on the score they obtained following their Visitor Attraction Quality Scheme assessment. The attractions have been acknowledged as a result of the outstanding experiences they provide, highlighting all aspects of the visitor experience, from story-telling to food and drink, and customer service to overall winners.
Andrew Stokes, VisitEngland director, said: "England is home to world-class attractions right across the country, welcoming visitors throughout the year and offering experiences of the highest quality including excellent food and drink and outstanding customer service.
"It is also really fantastic to see these accolades recognising the work of those employees, managers and owners who make sure that all who pass through their doors have a truly memorable experience.”
VisitEngland's Attractions Accolades, now in their fifth year, can be attained by members of the VisitEngland Visitor Attraction Qaulity Scheme in categories including the welcome accolade, hidden gem, best told story, quality food and drink and the gold accolade for all-round top-scoring attractions.