A POPULAR attraction will be closing its doors to members of the public in days due to coronavirus restrictions - and may not reopen until the spring.

Kingston Maurward Animal Park and Gardens, based in the grounds of the college outside Dorchester, has made the decision to close to the public due to the recent bad weather and continued restrictions on indoor activities.

The animal park and gardens had reopened following the lifting of lockdown earlier this year, with a one-way system and two-metre social distancing rules in place.

But the decision has now been made to close the site until further notice.

Luke Rake, principal and chief executive of Kingston Maurward, said: "Due to the onset of poor weather, and continued restrictions on the use of indoor areas such as the café and soft play areas, we have taken the decision to close the Animal Park and Gardens until next spring, with effect from the close of business on Saturday, October 31.

"If government guidelines relax regarding indoor mixing, we may reopen earlier but at this time our target is March 1, 2021. This will also allow us time to improve facilities and your experience next year too. We would like to thank all our visitors for their custom and support during 2020, and hope to see you again soon.

"If you have a season ticket, you may automatically add 12 months to its expiry date so that next year you gain full value. If you would like a refund instead, please contact us directly via marketing@kmc.ac.uk and we will ensure this is done for you to the value of the remaining time on the ticket."

The animal park and gardens includes a café, soft play areas, 35 acres of formal gardens and lots of animals including sheep, alpacas and Shetland ponies. The large estate near Dorchester is a popular wedding venue in Dorset and hosts equestrian events, conferences, and private events as well as the college.

As previously reported, 46 jobs were under threat at Kingston Maurward this month due to cost-saving measures in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Kingston Maurward had lost £1million of income due to the pandemic and claimed that job losses were necessary in order to counteract the negative economic effects of the pandemic.

The site closed its doors in March to all but a few staff members who were directly involved in caring for animals and other essential functions during lockdown. NHS staff at Dorset County Hospital were also offered use of its residential accommodation.

A spokeswoman for Kingston Maurward said there has not been a case of Covid-19 at the college or at the animal park and gardens.