A two-wheeled jaunt between favourite food and ale stops; a beautiful hill walk, where the train is there to take you home; a night-time search for England’s most elusive predator, the pine marten. These are just some of the experiences featured in a major drive to boost tourism in the Shropshire Hills and surrounding market towns, which launched this week.
It focuses on a range of newly presented visitor experiences and new tourism products that build on the area’s existing strengths and reputation.
The Shropshire Hills and surrounding market towns, particularly Ludlow, are renowned for fine food and local produce, while its rolling hills, hugely varied landscape and wide horizons make great country for walking, nature-watching and a host of adventurous pursuits. These hills, bordering Wales, are rich in history and culture and have been inspirational for writers and artists from ancient times to the present day.
The launch comes at the end of a European-funded project aimed at building cooperation between tourism businesses in this magical area and encouraging sustainability in the industry.
Working with the Shropshire Hills Destination Partnership, the project team identified opportunities for new products and new ways of presenting visitor experiences more dynamically. They are all now presented on Shropshire Hills Tourism’s website which is the area’s Destination Management Organisation.
New products include:
– A new cycling holiday based on the best of the area’s food and drink and developed with local company, Wheely Wonderful Cycling.
– A new walking trail, linking the new Heart of Wales Line Trail to the popular Offa’s Dyke Path and Shropshire Way, and including four easy station-to-station stages, totalling 24 miles, between Craven Arms and Knighton Station.
– Night-time nature walks with the Shropshire Wildlife Trust in areas where rare pine martens were recently filmed for the first time in England.
Also prominently featured is advice on the best places in the Shropshire Hills to find fine food and to enjoy increasingly popular pursuits, like mountain-biking, gliding, stargazing, and wild swimming.
And there’s information on the best places to stay for family and friends’ reunions or ideas for more adventurous groups, including hen and stag parties – not to mention more artistic pursuits, such as poetry, writing, country crafts and creative classes.
By grouping suppliers together in new dynamic ways the aim is to ensure greater visibility for all the things that the Shropshire Hills are best at, while also building on the existing sense of common purpose among tourism businesses in the area.
The Tourism Cooperation Project in the Shropshire Hills is delivered by Gravity Consulting Ltd, under contract to Shropshire Council. It is funded from the Growth Programme, which provides funding to projects in England that create jobs and help rural economic growth. These grants are funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD). Key partners in the project are Shropshire Council and Shropshire Hills Destination Partnership, represented by Shropshire Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Shropshire Hills Tourism.
Paul Davis, of Shropshire Hills Tourism, said: “All of us working in tourism in south Shropshire are proud of the very special qualities of both its landscape and its people. We are pleased to be partners in a project that we hope will encourage more visitors to experience the area for themselves.”
Nigel McDonald, Sustainable Tourism Officer at the Shropshire Hills AONB Partnership, added: “This project builds on the principles set out in the Destination’s Sustainable Tourism Strategy. Our aim is to highlight and safeguard the area’s special qualities by developing attractive and sustainable tourism products that will benefit our economy.”
Lezley Picton, Portfolio Holder for Culture and Leisure at Shropshire Council, added: “Tourism is a hugely important element of the Shropshire economy and, in particular, that of the rural area that is the Shropshire Hills. We see this project as being the first steps in taking forward the promotion of this very special place. We want to boost the area’s profile as an outstanding destination now, and provide a solid foundation for future promotional activities.”