One of Yorkshire’s oldest tourist destinations, formed over 500,000 years ago, is appealing for support to keep its doors open after lockdown,

The attraction is also offering people the chance to win a campervan as part of a fundraising effort.

Stump Cross Caverns is a popular visitor attraction. It is run as a family business and has been open to the public since its discovery by lead miners in 1860.

But it has been hit hard by lockdown closures and social distancing restrictions over the past 12 months.

The family says ticket sales alone are down by more than £350,000 as visitor numbers drop from an annual average of 60,000 to just 15,000.

To help prevent its doors closing for good, Stump Cross hopes to raise £53,000 in funds through its latest two-part crowdfunder appeal.

The first lets supporters pledge as little as £10 to enter a life changing prize draw to win a luxury, low mileage, 66 plate, Volkswagen T30, Campervan, donated by the Cavern’s owners, the Bowerman family.

Alongside this, in return for pledging just £2, the second appeal offers the chance to take part in a £500 draw, with five amazing prizes up for grabs. Each lucky winner will receive memorable Stump Cross experiences, all activated upon the site reopening.

Prizes are individually worth £100 and include:

• Exclusive use of the newly refurbished cinema for up to six people. Food and drinks included.

• Annual Family Cave Pass.

• A day relaxing in the recently renovated ‘Time Out Pod’. Breath taking views of the Dales and private dining included. Valid for up to six people.

• £100 in vouchers, to be redeemed onsite.

• A freshly cooked meal for up to six people in ‘The Time Café’.

Lisa Bowerman, owner of Stump Cross Caverns said: “We’ve worked tirelessly to offer an outstanding experience to all our customers since we took ownership of Stump Cross Caverns 18 years ago. Visitors have marvelled at the magical splendour the caves have to offer thanks to its beautiful grottos and benefited from the recent refurbishment of our café, 50-seater cinema, and exclusive chill out zone, known as the Time Out Pod.

“Sadly, with no clear opening date on the horizon, all of this is under threat unless we raise vital funds to keep us up and running. Our latest crowdfunder appeals will hopefully mean that we can continue to welcome visitors to the Caverns for many years to come.

“By pledging donations, our supporters will not only have the chance to win some truly amazing prizes, including our very own state-of-the-art VW campervan and five memorable Stump Cross experiences, but they will also be helping us and our local suppliers, continue trading and keep tourism alive in the Yorkshire Dales.”

Due to its natural and cultural importance Stump Cross is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest. Bones of Ice Age creatures have been discovered in the caverns including reindeer, wolverine and bison and some are now on display in the visitor centre. Its cave system extends well beyond the public access show caves, to an overall length of approximately 6km. Many of the deeper caverns are only accessible to experienced cavers, but there are plans to open further sections in the future. Donations to the crowdfunders and entry into the prize draws must be completed by noon on Tuesday, March 30. Winners will be announced live from 8pm the following day.

Those missing the caverns or hoping to visit after lockdown can explore the site from the comfort of their own home thanks to an interactive online virtual 3D tour, created by Leeds-based Apollo3D, and featured on the Stump Cross Caverns website Campervan prize draw entrants and those pledging £11 for a cave ticket also get one month’s unlimited access to an exclusive behind the scenes virtual tour and for £50 this reward is upgraded to a one-to-one virtual guided tour with an expert.

Other gifts available to those who pledge include a Stump Cross t-shirt, winter hat or hoodie. There’s also an option to donate and not participate in the draw or pledge £100 and receive a £120 Stump Cross voucher in return, valid for two years.

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