Changes at the top for Dartmouth Visitor Centre

The end of the summer season has brought changes at the Dartmouth Visitor Centre.

After more than four years at the helm general manager Karen Perrow has retired and is succeeded by Theresa Gunn, who has a background in global tourism and travel.

Former chairman Hilary Bastone, who’s been involved with the centre for more than six years, has also stood down.

Karen said she’s thoroughly enjoyed her time at the visitor centre, known as “the shop window of Dartmouth”.

She said: “For the past five years, many people have worked incredibly hard to take Dartmouth Visitor Centre from the brink of insolvency to the vibrant, successful enterprise it is today.

“Along the way we’ve become a not-for-profit community interest company, won awards, been nationally recognised by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers for our Newcomen Engine and produced a highly respected visitor guide.

“One of the most ambitious projects, spearheaded by former director Gina Coles and supported by Dartmouth Town Council, was obtaining planning approval for a major extension at the visitor centre which celebrates history, culture and engineering, and which is still a work in progress, subject to the necessary funding.”

Karen said in the last year almost 50,000 people came through the doors looking for help or information, despite constant closures due to lockdowns.

She said that, during her time as manager, she was especially indebted to the centre’s team of volunteers who gave so much of their time and went the extra mile for the good of the town.

She added: “While many tourist information centres around the country have folded, Dartmouth has doggedly dug in and fought back in difficult times.

“After lockdown, we were the only visitor centre to re-open in the South Hams and that was thanks to our team of volunteers, many of whom are vulnerable themselves.

“The role they play is invaluable to every business in Dartmouth. The town owes them much and I will miss them all.”

Karen said she had no immediate plans for the future, but was looking forward to spending more time with her partner, Hilary, as well as having more leisure time and being able to travel more.

Karen’s replacement Theresa Gunn is from New York State in the US and moved to the area with her English husband five years ago.

She said she loves Dartmouth, especially the coastal walks, and is excited about her new position in the town.

She said: “It’s great, I really love it and am very excited to meet everyone and get going with everything at the visitor centre.

“I’m excited to make connections, promote Dartmouth and the centre. It really feels like we have the support of the local people and we’re here to help locals and visitors alike.

“We’re often the first port of call for lost and found objects and at the moment we’re supporting charities with Christmas card sales.”

Theresa now follows Karen in managing one member of staff and 18 volunteers.

She added: “I’m blown away by how dedicated the staff and volunteers are. The volunteers give their time so freely and the centre really runs because of those volunteers.”

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