Exploring Visitor Giving in Cumbria: An International Perspective
The STEP project is made up of four partners; The Broads Authority, De Biesbosch National Park (The Netherlands), Waterways and Sea Canals Organisation (Belgium) and The Nature and Forests Agency (Belgium). The 25 strong group landed in Manchester last Wednesday morning and then the tour began, we certainly managed to cram a lot in, starting with the lovely Eden Valley. Our first stop was Orton Community Woodland and amidst a few rain showers we enjoyed an insightful tour of the tree planting project with Rob Willan, a wonderful story of grassroots conservation. This was followed by afternoon tea at New Ing Lodge, a welcoming fire and homemade cake was just what we needed, with a genuine Cumbrian welcome from Scott and Jamie Newburn. New Ing Lodge decided to fundraise for Orton Community Woodland through Nurture Eden’s Visit Give Protect scheme because many of their visitors doing the Coast to Coast pass through the woodland down the road on their walk after staying at New Ing; you couldn’t really get a better example of direct links between business and conservation in Visitor Giving. After a quick tour around the biomass boiler shed we got back on the bus to head to Langdale Hotel for dinner and bed.
Bob Cartwright kicked off the programme on Thursday morning, explaining the important role of partnership with the Lake District National Park in Visit Giving – this was a theme through the day as the group, headed up by Ruth Kirk our own Visitor Giving Fundrasiing Officer, went out to see footpath restoration projects delivered by LDNP and The National Trust through Fix the Fells. It wasn’t all walking though, we couldn’t let them come to the lakes without a trip out on the lake, Ullswater Steamers kindly stepped in to provide a lovely trip across to Howtown and tell us about how their ticket levy of 25p is helping to take care of the footpaths around the lake that many people regularly use in conjunction with the steamers. A picnic lunch on the boat proved to be a highlight for many, with lots of local produce provided by Loveleigh Vintage Teas, followed by another hill climb to walk it all off!Friday came around very quickly, time flies when you’re having fun! Cedar Manor Hotel in Windermere provided the perfect base to head down to the lake and hear all about Love Your Lakes campaign from Helen Moriarty, our Sustainable Tourism Advisor. Cameras were out as we walked up and over Adelaide hill for a gorgeous view of Windermere and the Langdales. Back at Cedar Manor Jonathan and Caroline Kaye did a fantastic job of demonstrating how Visitor Giving plays a part in making their luxury hotel more sustainable. After a quick coffee we were off to Hawkshead Brewery for the final part of the trip, a session with Sheona Southern from Cairn Marketing Consultancy helped to draw together everything we’d done in the last three days. It was really interesting to read everyone’s comments on what they had seen and heard – one recurring theme was the genuine enthusiasm and passion that came across when meeting businesses and projects involved in Visitor Giving, it was obvious that the people we met on the journey had made a real impression. Building quality relationships and developing clear communication of key messages is an important part of making Visitor Giving successful, so it was great to see that our friends from STEP had experienced this first-hand. The trip itself was a fab three days out, but more than that I found it really inspiring to hear about some of the fantastic projects and responsible tourism underway in Belgium and the Netherlands too. It’s very easy to get absorbed in your own work sometimes, so to have an opportunity to share knowledge and experience with others is always valued. This is one of the reasons why I am looking forward to our Visitor Giving Forum on 17th October – supported by the Lake District National Park, it will be fantastic to explore other destinations’ experiences and aspirations for Visitor Giving, a rare opportunity not to be missed!