Belfast Telegraph

No sunbathers, no bucket and spade brigade, just a man and his brolly on yet another soggy bank holiday...

By Linda Stewart

The desolate scene at Helen’s Bay yesterday stood in stark contrast to the packed, sun-drenched beach that visitors enjoyed earlier this summer.

The washout bank holiday meant swapping bikinis for brollies and windbreaks for windcheaters as rain pelted the province.

It was another disappointing wet August day — the one when workers traditionally throw off their shackles and converge on the beach for one last hurrah before the summer ends.

As a waterlogged Northern Ireland deserted the beaches under the emptying heavens, meteorologists logged rainfall levels of up to 17mm, recorded at Murlough in the morning.

Downpatrick Racecourse was forced to cancel racing because of the deluge, but Ladies Day went ahead regardless with plenty of colour and glamour.

Toby Edwards, National Trust manager of Portstewart strand, said it was dry but overcast on the popular north coast beach — yet no-one was prepared to take the risk of a downpour.

“It's pretty quiet. It’s not been a great bank holiday for us; we were hoping to round off the holidays with a nice busy day, but we couldn’t,” he said.

“We’ve had about 300 people, maybe 500 by the end of the day, and that’s people who are regulars and locals using the beach and dressed up in their wet gear.”

Meanwhile, Belfast Zoo reported plummeting numbers following a busy weekend when the new Red Squirrel Nook opened.

“Because we had our squirrel week it was a good enough weekend, but it’s dead at the minute,” a spokesperson said.

“We only have 240 people in at the minute and yesterday it was 3,500, while on Saturday it was 1,300. It’s really affected us.”

Popular Crawfordsburn beach was also deserted as the rain clouds hung over the North Down coast.

One staff member said: “It’s a washout. We’ve got the usual regulars walking and a few people in the cafe, but it’s quiet.”

Further south along the Co Down coast, campers packed up and left the caravan park at Kilbroney Park ahead of schedule as the ground became waterlogged, according to manager Kieron Owens.

“We’ve had a lot of people who left early. Our site is nearly empty at the minute — people have had enough,” he said.

“We’ve had rain from the early hours of the morning and anyone camping had a bad night.

“This is the quietest I’ve seen it on a bank holiday in many a year, although it is giving it good for the rest of the week before the schools start again.

“The ground is saturated after nearly three months of constant rain. We had to close one section because of the damage to the ground.”

And it was a similar picture in the west, with the Ulster American Folk Park reporting lower visitor numbers than usual.

One staff member said: “It was a terrible morning, very wet. But the sun is shining and people are starting to come now. The morning was a washout — very noticeably slower than normal.”

However, indoor visitor attractions weren’t complaining as visitors fled the downpours.

David Moore, of Aunt Sandra’s sweet factory on Belfast’s Castlereagh Road, said the shop had been inundated with requests for visits.

“We do sweet demonstrations which have been booked out from last week and today we’re inundated with calls from people looking to get in,” he said. And visitors to the Auld Lammas Fair weren’t deterred by the downpours, drawn to Ballycastle in large numbers by the siren call of dulse and yellow man — although visitors from Campbeltown in Scotland were unable to make the trip as the weather forced a cancellation of the ferry service.

Photographer Steven McCauley said yesterday: “It’s not too bad at the moment.

“It was raining a few minutes ago and it was a sea of umbrellas, but it’s dried up well and the crowds are pretty good.

“The fair was affected badly this morning — the numbers were well down. But now it’s picked up and it’s probably as good as ever.”

Belfast Telegraph

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