The businesses behind great family days out
A North East trust based at the UNESCO World Heritage site of Hadrian’s Wall has secured its future and potential new historic discoveries across two Roman sites, thanks to support from Lloyds Bank.
Northumberland-based Vindolanda Charitable Trust was founded in 1970 to preserve and carry out archaeological research of the Vindolanda Fort – a site occupied by the Romans from approximately 85 AD to 370 AD.
A museum at the site sits beside a second Roman settlement, Magna Fort. The trust normally welcomes up to 30,000 visitors each month during the summer and 150,000 annually who come to explore the historical landmarks.
But when the UK government announced restrictions on non-essential travel due to the coronavirus outbreak, the trust was forced to close both sites and museum, causing an immediate drop in income generated from admission costs, leading to the furloughing of 37 of its 46 staff.
In 2019, the trust’s turnover was £1.5m but it predicts it will generate just 30% of this amount this year.
Despite working hard to reduce overheads the trust needed financial support for the short term. It approached Lloyds Bank and secured a £300,000 business loan. By keeping the trust financially secure in the short term, it will be able to safeguard the future of the sites and museums.
Dr Andrew Birley, CEO and director of excavations at The Vindolanda Trust, said: “Our income relies on people visiting us, especially tourists from abroad. When the outbreak began and the travel ban was imposed, we knew our cash flow would be heavily impacted. This is normally our busiest time of the year but we’ve been forced to close our doors until it’s safe to reopen.
“We estimate that there’s several hundred years left until the sites are fully explored. Thanks to Lloyds Bank, we now know that we can continue our excavation work once the lockdown is lifted and welcome back visitors to learn about this important time in our history.
“Our core team is working hard to maintain our sites and map our pathway out of this challenging situation. With this additional funding, we have the peace of mind knowing that we now have the cashflow in place to cover overheads and begin operations again quickly when restrictions begin to ease.”
Paul Watson, relationship manager at Lloyds Bank, said: “The finance secured by the Vindolanda Trust will help to see it through the unprecedented challenges in the weeks and month ahead. The trust works to support a historical site of global importance and protecting sites like this is essential if we want to continue learning about our history.
“This is a great example of a business working through the crisis so it can continue its great work in the heritage sector that benefits the education of people far and wide.”
A Somerset zoo that has closed its doors during the coronavirus outbreak has secured a six-figure funding package to care for its animals during the lockdown, thanks to Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking.
Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm, in Wraxall near Bristol, closed its doors on March 21 but was facing substantial costs to keep more than 1,000 animals who live there healthy and happy.
The pressure was even greater because the zoo was approaching its busiest and most profitable time of the year.
But support from Lloyds Bank means it can now afford to keep a staff of 20 specialist keepers employed through the lockdown period to look after the animals, including giraffes, lions, tigers, rhinos and African elephants.
Managing director Larry Bush said: “It’s been a very emotional week for everybody. We’ve had to ask non-essential staff to go home on furlough, retaining a skeleton team of around 20.
“Some of our catering suppliers donated fruit and veg that would otherwise have been delivered to local hotels and restaurants. And the public have shown their support through our Facebook page. However, running a zoo is a huge undertaking and we were really concerned about maintaining the safety and welfare of our animals.”
Larry contacted Lloyds Bank for support and within 24 hours secured a £300,000 package to keep the zoo going.
He said: “We’ve banked with Lloyds for the entire 66 years that we’ve been on this site. The team were very clear that the bank would support us through this crisis and it gave us a real boost that they understand the challenge we’re facing.
“This package gives us the breathing space we need right now, and we’re already talking about further financial backing through the government’s business interruption loan scheme.”
While the family-owned zoo, which is home to more than one hundred species of animals, remains closed, keepers will be posting regular updates from the animals on social media.
Last week it welcomed a baby female zebra, which the team decided to name Hope as a symbol of their positive outlook in the face of the coronavirus crisis.
The zoo was opened by Anthony and Christina Bush in 1999 and typically welcomes more than 200,000 visitors a year, with 55 full-time staff.
Neil Wright, agricultural relationship manager for Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, said: “Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm is a thriving business and a much-loved destination for families from across the region.
“With our support, I’m sure that the zoo and all its staff will make it through this testing time and will be welcoming visitors once again as soon as it is safe.
“We’re working closely with customers across the region to offer support in managing their cash flow. This includes arrangement fee free overdrafts, capital repayment holidays on loans for businesses that have been severely affected, and the Coronavirus Business Loan Interruption Scheme to ensure the continued provision of finance to UK businesses.”