Tourist chiefs expect a bumper half term

The balmy autumnal sunshine has brought a warm glow to tourism chiefs across the county as holidaymakers flock to Norfolk to soak up the Indian summer.

The balmy autumnal sunshine has brought a warm glow to tourism chiefs across the county as holidaymakers flock to Norfolk to soak up the Indian summer.

Only 10 weeks before Christmas, families are making the most of the unseasonal good weather and the approaching half term and are helping to stretch out the holiday season for hoteliers, camp sites and popular attractions.

And weather experts predict the warm spell is likely to continue to the end of the month, with no sign of a massive dip in temperature in the same week that the clocks are due to go back.

James Ellis, of Norfolk Country Cottages, which has 320 properties, said they were expecting a "bumper" half term next week, with a surge in bookings compared with this time last year.

"It's really booming. It's up about 10pc up on last year, which is very good, and forward bookings for next year are up 50pc at the moment.

"I think the good weather has made people really think about holidaying in the UK."

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And while tourists bask in the sunshine - which peaked at 20c at Marham, near Swaffham, on Friday - flora and fauna appear to be reaping the benefits, too.

Rebecca Wells, of Norfolk Wildlife Trust, said their sites at Hickling and Ranworth broads were proving particularly popular after the poor weather earlier in the season, which knocked migration and visitor numbers.

"We noticed quite a dip in visitors this year, and in May the weather affected migration and we had far fewer visitors in August, so the current good weather is great for us.

"We're expecting a lot of people this half term."

Wroxham-based Barnes Brink-craft, which hires boats on the Broads, has extended its season to the week beyond half-term for the first time in several years.

Director Matthew Thwaites said: "Normally we do well all year and then have a dip just before half-term, but we haven't had that this year.

"Half term is full, and the week after that is three-quarters full, and we decided to keep open because we had so much interest."

Michael Timewell, chairman of Norfolk Tourism and marketing director of Blue Sky Leisure, which owns Kelling Heath Holiday Park, at Weybourne, said bookings were testament to the fact that October was not seen as an unreliable month for getting away.

"Norfolk always is very much in demand, it's a fantastic county and has so much to offer.

"People will flock here no matter what time of year and thoroughly enjoy it even more when we have such fine weather."

Maximum temperatures across Norfolk at the weekend were up to six degrees above the average for this time of year, which usually stalls at around 14C to 15C.

Phil Garner, of Weatherquest, based at UEA, said: "It's not unusual at this time of year to have a nice, warm day but I think the difference is that we've not had any real cold weather yet.

"It's going to continue for a while. We're looking at a long range forecast to October 25 and there is no sign of any cold weather at all.

"This isn't unheard of, though, and it goes along with the balance of a warm July and September."