Jimmy's Farm in Suffolk to reopen after 'hardest of times'

  • Published
Jimmy's Farm
Image caption,
Michaela Doherty, from Jimmy's Farm at Wherstead, said the lockdown had hit the business hard

A TV star's farm and wildlife park is getting ready to welcome back visitors following the "hardest of times" amid the coronavirus lockdown.

Jimmy's Farm, just outside Ipswich, will reopen on 25 June after zoos and wildlife parks received permission to open from Monday.

But managing director Michaela Doherty said it had been a "frustrating" wait.

Life during lockdown at the farm - home to more than 80 species and breeds - was documented in a TV series in May.

Image caption,
Jimmy Doherty on his Wherstead farm with one of the rare breed pigs

Mrs Doherty, who runs the site with TV presenter and farmer husband Jimmy, said the industry had to band together to call on the government to fix a reopening date, with several zoos and parks warning of perilous financial difficulties.

"We couldn't get a steer on when and how we were going to reopen, which is totally frustrating for any business," she said.

"It was nonsensical that retail outlets could open but large wildlife parks couldn't - thankfully the lobbying from all the zoos and wildlife parks has worked."

The government has said zoos could reopen as people were less likely to spread the virus when outdoors and it also needed to support the industry.

Mrs Doherty said the last few months had been the farm's "rock bottom in 18 years of trading - it's been the hardest of times".

She said it had been "crippling" financially, but praised the government's job retention schemes and loans.

Ahead of reopening, the farm had worked with Babergh District Council to "ensure safety" and adherence to strict guidelines, said Mrs Doherty.

They meant the 150-acre (61-hectare) site's indoor buildings would remain closed, visitor numbers were limited and people would have to book advance tickets online.

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