A TOURIST attraction that hosted 30,000 sightseers a year has been forced to close - by vandalism and the Teletubbies.

The doors to the Sabden Treacle Mines have shut, 14 years after they were opened by Bill Dewhurst and his family.

And Bill, the brains behind the tourist attraction that was to spawn the Treacle People television series and a mini-industry in the manufacture of furry toys, said the treacle mines had been a victim of their own success and outgrown their Sabden site.

Bill started making the furry creatures after being made redundant as an electronics engineer.

Wife Barbara-Anne, daughters Christine and Helen and son Philip soon became equal partners and the Sabden Treacle Mines were opened.

A London Weekend Television series followed, featuring the voice of the late Willie Rushton, and it notched up a BAFTA nomination.

Bill said the furry creatures were no longer viable in the face of stiff competition from Teletubbies.

"There is no chance of the mines reopening in Sabden, but perhaps elsewhere given time,"he said.

"I am very sad to see them close, but it is time for my family to move on to other things.

"We all have various careers that we want to pursue and now is the time."

The Sabden Treacle Mines attracted 30,000 visitors a year to the Ribble Valley, but were also a target for vandals. This, plus the Teletubbies craze, had sounded the death knell, Bill said.

"At the end of the day our treacle miners were exported all around the world and were the subject of a television series," he said.

"We are very sad, but also very proud of our achievements."

Converted for the new archive on 14 July 2000. Some images and formatting may have been lost in the conversion.