Visitors to Diggerland on its final day are complaining the theme park went out with a fizzle rather than a bang, due to a lack of staff and attractions already being packed away.
It was the end of an era for Diggerland Devon, which turned off the engines and closed its doors for the last time this month after the Covid pandemic caused a loss of business.
The JCBs, excavators, giant diggers and mini tractors were put away – but not before customers paid a final visit.
Around 60 staffers lost their jobs as a result of the closure, and a visitor to the park over its final days told Devon Live it seemed many of the workers had already left.
The company was so short staffed employees from other Diggerland sites as far away as Kent, Yorkshire and Durham were called in to help.
Jessica Daniel, who took her son to the park for a day out with her partner, said while it was largely an enjoyable day, the atmosphere was a little subdued.
“That was my first time there,” she said.
“We were a bit disappointed with some of the rides not being open, whether that was due to lack of staff or just not bothering as they were closing.
“Also I talked to somebody else who was there and they mentioned that Diggerland didn’t offer any discount on the entry fee or anything on site and still charged full price even though they were closing.
“Very expensive for what we actually had to go on. We tried to enjoy ourselves with what was available to go on though which was accessible due to height restrictions with my son.
“It was a nice day though.”
Others took to the site’s Facebook page to express their disappointment at what the theme park had to offer customers over its last days, with one woman writing: “No wonder it closed.
“Cannot see how they justified charging full price for tickets last Saturday!”
Another woman commented below a farewell post on the Diggerland Facebook page, writing: “Shame that this has happened”.
“But think it was pretty disgusting that you were charging full price for entry when so many of the attractions were not open.
A Diggerland spokesperson said it was unfortunate that the last weekend of opening at the location was a “very difficult one”, as most of the staff at the Devon site had moved on to new jobs.
They continued: “Due to this, staff from other Diggerland sites in the UK were pulled to help with the running of the Diggerland Devon site in terms of ensuring full safety and ensuring the best possible customer experience, over the last couple of days of opening.
“Whilst on the whole, most of our customers had a great time, we can only apologise profusely to customers who may have been affected by the last days of opening and ask them to contact our Head Office directly, if they have not already done so.
“We will do our best to fully accommodate our customers feedback and help rectify the situation as best we can.”
The park, close to junction 28 of the M5 , opened in May 2001 and attracted tens of thousands of visitors each year.
It was the brainchild of Hugh Edeleanu, a businessman who supplied digging machinery across Europe.
He noticed children were fascinated by the diggers and opened four theme parks in the UK.
Diggerland was recently voted as one of the top seven tourist attractions for families in the south west.
But the Covid-19 health crisis had a “detrimental effect” on the Devon business, the company said, due to its rural location and heavy reliance on tourism.
The remaining Diggerland parks in Kent, Yorkshire and Durham will remain open.