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Barnard Castle benefits from lockdown exposure

Locals have reported increased visitor numbers, with people curious to see the town Dominic Cummings made famous.

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Locals have noted an upsurge in visitors as lockdown eased following Dominic Cummings’ controversial trip to the County Durham town (Tom Wilkinson/PA)

Locals have noted an upsurge in visitors as lockdown eased following Dominic Cummings’ controversial trip to the County Durham town (Tom Wilkinson/PA)

Locals have noted an upsurge in visitors as lockdown eased following Dominic Cummings’ controversial trip to the County Durham town (Tom Wilkinson/PA)

Businesses in Barnard Castle have noted an upturn in visitors as lockdown eased after it was made famous by Dominic Cummings’ controversial family trip.

TV antiques expert David Harper who has a shop in the picturesque market town said local businesses could never have afforded the exposure Barnard Castle received from the affair.

And the mayor said the headlines it created “put us on the map”.

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TV antiques expert David Harper, who is based in Barnard Castle, tweeted to say he had been wrongly identified as Dominic Cummings (David Harper)

TV antiques expert David Harper, who is based in Barnard Castle, tweeted to say he had been wrongly identified as Dominic Cummings (David Harper)

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TV antiques expert David Harper, who is based in Barnard Castle, tweeted to say he had been wrongly identified as Dominic Cummings (David Harper)

Mr Cummings visited the riverside at Barnard Castle on Easter Saturday after traveling from London to Durham to stay at a property on his parents’ farm when he and his wife fell ill.

The Downing Street adviser said they took a trip to Barnard Castle, where he was spotted by a retired chemistry teacher, as he planned to travel back to London the next day and he wanted to check he could drive safely, particularly as his “eyesight seemed to have been affected by the disease”.

That comment led to many jokes about opticians in the town.

Indeed, brewers BrewDog have sold more than 810,000 cans of their IPA called Barnard Castle Eye Test.

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Labour leader Keir Starmer holding a can of Barnard Castle Eye Test beer (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Labour leader Keir Starmer holding a can of Barnard Castle Eye Test beer (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

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Labour leader Keir Starmer holding a can of Barnard Castle Eye Test beer (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Mr Harper, who has been wrongly identified as Mr Cummings when he has been spotted heading to his antiques and art shop, said: “I don’t know how many emails I’ve received from people saying Barnard Castle looks so lovely.

“I’ve heard of people thinking of relocating and checking out property prices.

“When I reopened my shop earlier this month, if I had a pound for every time someone mentioned it, or cracked a joke about eyesight or calling me Dominic, I would be super-rich.

“If everyone in Barnard Castle got together and wrote a cheque for the cost of the marketing, we still couldn’t pay for it all.

“Thank you Dom.”

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The town has antique shops and a ruined medieval castle (Tom Wilkinson/PA)

The town has antique shops and a ruined medieval castle (Tom Wilkinson/PA)

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The town has antique shops and a ruined medieval castle (Tom Wilkinson/PA)

Mr Harper said, only this weekend, a couple who were visiting the town after not coming for many years said they were reminded of its attractions by seeing it in the news and they came into his shop and bought some art.

Mr Harper said he emailed Mr Cummings offering to send him a copy of his new history book, A Romp With The Georgians, as a thank you but he had not heard back.

He said: “I think Barnard Castle will forever be connected with the lockdown, and eye tests.”

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Dominic Cummings, senior aide to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, explained his movements during lockdown at a Downing Street briefing ( Jonathan Brady/PA)

Dominic Cummings, senior aide to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, explained his movements during lockdown at a Downing Street briefing ( Jonathan Brady/PA)

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Dominic Cummings, senior aide to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, explained his movements during lockdown at a Downing Street briefing ( Jonathan Brady/PA)

Mayor John Blissett, 73, agreed that more people were inspired to visit, taking in its ruined medieval castle which sits above beautiful walks beside the River Tees.

He said: “The crowds have been coming in and obviously the curiosity is there.

“I don’t know whether the opticians have had any more trade though.

“I think the publicity has done us good in the sense that it has put us on the map.”

Last year locals started the Making Barny Brighter Together campaign to bring in more visitors.

Mr Blissett said: “This has done us one hell of a favour, they know about us.”

PA