Kent

Rochester Cathedral crazy golf prompts visitor increase

Crazy golf in Rochester Cathedral Image copyright AFP/Getty
Image caption The bridge-themed nine-hole golf course is located in the nave of the cathedral

A cathedral has seen a 100% increase in visitors and more people attending services since it introduced a crazy golf course for the summer holidays.

The nave of Rochester Cathedral has been temporarily taken over by the bridge-themed nine-hole course.

In its first 16 days, from 27 July to 11 August, there were 13,000 visitors to the cathedral, compared to 6,500 during the same period the year before.

Meanwhile, Norwich Cathedral has placed a helter-skelter ride in its nave.

Image caption The course is open until 1 September and includes models of different bridges

The Dean of Rochester, the Very Reverend Philip Hesketh, said the increase in numbers was "extraordinary".

"We've got between 250 and 300 young people every day coming into the cathedral, loving it and then spending time wandering around the rest of the cathedral.

"One of the things we do at 12pm and 3pm is to pause, for the whole of the cathedral, wherever people are and just have a prayer, and it's been fantastic the way people playing golf have engaged with that as well."

Image caption About 300 young people are visiting the cathedral every day to play golf

The golf course was a joint idea with the Rochester Bridge Trust and is designed to encourage young people to learn more about the engineering behind bridges.

As well as an increase in visitor numbers, the cathedral has seen a 22% rise in the number of candles being lit at prayer stations and more people attending the "usually sparsely populated" Saturday Evensong.

But the Right Reverend Dr Gavin Ashenden, former chaplain to the Queen, criticised the move as "introducing the church as a place of entertainment and diversion".

He said: "The thing that makes people come to church is when they've fallen in love with God, and at the moment we think they've fallen in love with golf, which is not the same thing."

Dean Hesketh said: "Some people have said this is a desecration.

"We don't see it as a desecration at all. It's the consecration by God of all that is good in life.

"People have said they will come back [to worship]."

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