Category Archives: Tourism

EXMOOR VISITORS REPORT WORLD-CLASS SATISFACTION

Over 99 per cent of visitors to Exmoor rated their trip as ‘very good’ or ‘good’ and 96 per cent believe the National Park is being well managed and cared for, according to the results of Exmoor National Park Authority’s latest biannual visitor survey.*

The survey also revealed a ‘Net Promoter Score’ of 77 based on how likely visitors were to recommend a visit to friends and family. Scores of over 70 are considered the industry standard for a world-class brand, based on overall satisfaction and loyalty. The scenery and landscape was the top attractor to the area, followed by peace and tranquillity, the opportunity for outdoor activities, the coastline and the wildlife.

The results are based on over 400 face-to-face interviews with visitors conducted between July and December last year at over 20 locations across the National Park.

Dan James, Exmoor National Park Authority’s Sustainable Economy Manager, said: “The tourism sector on Exmoor should be justifiably proud of these findings. Our sector is dominated by often family-run micro businesses, who work very hard to give visitors the best possible experience, and these results are testament to their devotion.

“70 years on from the 1949 Act of Parliament that paved the way for the UK’s National Parks, it’s heartening that Exmoor continues to offer inspiration and recreation to people from across the UK and beyond, contributing an estimated £125m to the rural economy each year. Together with our partners there are plenty of new initiatives to help us move ahead with confidence, including further developing astro-tourism opportunities, launching new immersive tourism products and continuing to invest in our Rights of Way network.”

Welcoming the survey results Jennette Baxter, Visit Exmoor Development Manager, said: “These results confirm what we already know – that people love Exmoor. The information gathered helps us plan our marketing strategies. The #VisitMoorThanOnce campaign is in response to findings that, despite wanting to return, over a fifth of repeat visitors hadn’t visited in three years. We are encouraging them to return again sooner.”

The full survey results are available on the Exmoor National Park website at www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk/tourism and will be presented at the Visit Exmoor Tourism Business Networking Day on 13 March – see www.visit-exmoor.co.uk/trade/business-networking-day-2019.

PHOTO: By Andrew Hobbs, from the spring walking feature in Exmoor Magazine.

NEW IMMERSIVE TOURISM EXPERIENCES LAUNCHED ON EXMOOR

A suite of new experiences aimed at inspiring more international tourists to explore the extraordinary landscapes and culture of Exmoor National Park are being unveiled at a public event today at Dunster Castle (Wednesday 27 February). They form part of the English National Park Experience Collection – a selection of over 70 immersive visitor experiences across nine National Parks in England funded by VisitEngland’s Discover England Fund.

Research suggests that when people travel they no longer want to just ‘see’ a place; they want to live it, breathe it, touch it and become part of it. The new collection offers outstanding visitor experiences in some of the country’s finest landscapes. Each experience has been carefully selected, developed and curated to tell the stories of Exmoor National Park, and the people who care for it.

During the course of the 12-month project, Exmoor National Park Authority held a series of workshops to help local tourism providers identify the most authentic and compelling experiences, and train them in how best to engage the international travel trade.

Dan James, Sustainable Economy Manager at Exmoor National Park Authority, said: “Exmoor is a very special place and, through this project, we hope to inspire more people to explore its wonderful landscape, and learn about the amazing people, heritage and wildlife behind it. By targeting independent and small group travel through overseas tour operators, we hope to open up new markets, helping tourism continue to grow sustainably and contribute to the vibrancy of our local communities.

“Independent research by the University of Exeter commissioned by the National Park Authority previously highlighted the need to talk more about the experiences that visitors can enjoy in the incredible landscape. This new project has allowed us to turn that research into action, by supporting a number of micro rural businesses to take advantage of new market trends.”

The nine experiences available on Exmoor are:

  1. Literary Footsteps – Follow in the footsteps of great writers, see the landscapes that inspired their work and experience their countryside and its traditions through a choice of informative and entertaining guided walks, finishing with a jug of local ale or cream tea at a traditional English pub.
  2. Fly back to Nature with Owls and Hawks – Marvel at the beauty of a close encounter with these impressive birds as they fly to your gloved hand in the timeless surroundings of a fifteenth-century farmstead.
  3. Medieval Dunster – Explore the ancient castle and its grounds and the charming historic village. See how Dunster flour is made, from grain to bag, enjoying an interactive mill experience before sampling the produce used to best advantage in a traditional lunch or cream team.
  4. Moods of Exmoor – Unlock the secrets of Exmoor through the lens of your camera. Discover hidden views, breath-taking landscapes and colourful seasonal changes with an internationally renowned, local photographer who is delighted to share his tips and advice throughout the day.
  5. Exmoor Wildlife Safari – Get off the beaten track with an experienced local safari guide, learn all about the local myths and legends, wildlife and terrain on this extended 4×4 safari, with the opportunity to meet the ponies close up at the Exmoor Pony centre.
  6. Old English Rural Life – Step back in time and discover the history of the Holnicote Estate – the largest single land ownership gifted to the National Trust. This ranger-guided walk starts with a delicious local breakfast and finishes with a cream tea on the beach.
  7. Seafront Dining Adventure – Fish for your lunch with a local mackerel fisherman and see the famous Porlock Oyster beds then head for land where you’ll savour your beautifully prepared catch, and sip local wine in an idyllic waterfront restaurant.
  8. Victorian Exmoor – Experience life in the Victorian Era; take a guided walk through the seaside villages of Lynton and Lynmouth to ride the famous cliff railway and then relax in a Victorian heritage carriage behind a steam engine on a trip through the Exmoor countryside.
  9. Plus the new Exmoor National Park Ranger Experience days, piloted last year, offering a unique insight into the varied life of a National Park Ranger plus a full farmhouse lunch.

Supporting accommodation providers include the Luttrell Arms and Yarn Market Hotel in Dunster, the Hunters Inn, and the Old Rectory Hotel in north-west Exmoor and the Exmoor White Horse Hotel in Exford.

Sarah Fowler, Sustainable Tourism Lead for the nine English National Parks and Chief Executive of the Peak District National Park Authority, said: “This brand-new collection of experiences has been designed to harness the growing demand for experiential tourism; alongside quality accommodation they will be easy to book options for the overseas travel trade. From travel agents, tour operators, wholesales or guides, there is something in the mix for most buyers’ upcoming schedules or brochures, helping to support hundreds of businesses across our National Parks.”

See the newly launched English National Park Experience Collection website for information about the full range of experiences: www.nationalparkexperiences.co.uk.

PHOTO: By Dan James

FURTHER ACCOLADES FOR DUNSTER BEACH HUTS

Salad Days and Holi Moli Beach Huts at Dunster Beach have been recognised by Theo Paphitis, retail magnate and entrepreneur. He is best known for his appearances on the BBC business programme Dragons’ Den but also runs #SBS on Twitter to recognise small businesses with entrepreneurial spirit.

Theo says, “I admire people who have passion and energy. If you cannot bore your friends to death about your own small business then something is seriously wrong. I was struck by the number of business owners on Twitter who wanted to tell me about their new products and services. Small Business Sunday was born so that people have a specific time slot to tweet and can pitch their ‘sell’ directly to me.

“My vision is that everyone who has ever won an #SBS re-tweet from me becomes part of a friendly club. Like-minded individuals can share successes and learnings. This website will give a valuable profile to the winners chosen to date and should help those who have not yet won but want some tips on how to do so. You will find news about the latest winners plus events and activities of interest.

“I know I have been lucky in business and I am keen now to spread goodwill to others, of course not forgetting that, very often, you make your own luck by making use of every opportunity.”

“We are absolutely delighted being chosen from hundreds of applicants to win this accolade. Being an #SBS winner will give Salad Days and Holi Moli Beach Huts as well as Dunster Beach unprecedented exposure nationwide,” said Brett Bates, co-owner of the beach huts with his partner Susan Juggins. ”With the launch of our newest beach hut Holi Moli it will only add to the incredible success of Salad Days, helping to bring many more tourists to this wonderful part of South West England.”

Find out more on the Salad Days & Holi Moli website dunsterbeachhut.com/

Salad Days & Holi Moli Facebook page

OPPORTUNITY TO RUN ILFRACOMBE’S POPULAR LAND TRAIN

The contract is up for renewal to run Ilfracombe’s popular land train.

North Devon Council will be going out to tender for an operator to take the wheel in April. It is five years since the ‘Dotto’ land train took to the streets of Ilfracombe, following a successful funding bid to the EU Leader 4 programme. Since then it has become an established tourist attraction, providing an all-weather ride for visitors taking a whistle-stop tour of the town and all it has to offer.

The service runs from Hillsborough, through High Street, Church Street, Wilder Road, St James Place to The Pier and back to Hillsborough via The Cove from April to October.

North Devon Council’s Executive Member for Economic Development, Councillor Pat Barker, says: “The land train is now a firmly established seasonal attraction in the town and is very popular with Ilfracombe’s numerous visitors. This is an attractive opportunity for anyone to build on what has already grown into a very popular service. Please get in touch with us for an informal chat if you’re interested.”

The opportunity to tender can be found here. For more information contact Vanessa Harrison in the Economic Development team on 01271 388216 or vanessa.harrison@northdevon.gov.uk. The deadline for tendering is 25 February.

QUINCE HONEY FARM IS ON THE MOVE

There’s a buzz in the air as popular attraction Quince Honey Farm is on the move to a brand-new, purpose-built site, with the opening weekend being on Saturday 6 and Sunday 7 April. The new venue can be found at Aller Cross near South Molton, Devon, just off the A361 North Devon Link Road, and promises to be even bigger and better than before.

One of Britain’s leading honey farms, Quince Honey Farm is a family-run business which was first established in 1949 by George Wallace with two hives of bees. It is now run by George’s son Paddy, his wife Jean and their son Ian with a team of hardworking, dedicated staff.

Quince Honey Farm Partner, Ian Wallace, said, “We have reached the limits of our current site, with no room left to grow, so the move to the much larger site is essential. It’s a very exciting opportunity to create a unique tourist attraction in North Devon and expand our beekeeping operation to produce even more delicious UK honey.”

The new attraction will have a sweeping driveway that will take visitors past the wild-flower meadows and fruit orchard down into the main complex. The buildings will be spaced around a large hexagonal central garden, with the new light and bright Visitor’s Centre being the first port of call. The main entrance will house the Farm Shop selling their range of seasonal honeys, beeswax items and gifts, and the Restaurant that will serve up delicious home-made dishes, drinks and special honey cream teas with views out to the gardens and woodland.

One of the main attractions at the new site is The Honey Factory which promises to be an educational, memorable and interesting area to visit. It features a large ‘Products of the Hive’ exhibition and viewing windows into the honey production area. A behind-the-scenes guided tour will also be offered, enabling visitors to get a close-up look at how honey is extracted from the hive and then bottled in jars ready to sell in the shop.

The Play Hive Adventure Park will see the return of the ever-popular indoor soft play area, improved at the new site with an extension and more seating for parents. It also features an attractive lake and large outdoor play area, creating a fantastic space for children and families to enjoy together.

Quince Honey Farm’s well attended daily activity programme will return, including beekeeping demonstrations and taster sessions, candle rolling and critter encounters, plus new activities such as a beekeeping tour and garden trails will be introduced, making the most of the new surroundings.

The centrepiece for the new attraction will be beautifully landscaped hexagonal gardens that can be explored and enjoyed all year round. Here visitors can take in the wonderful display of colours and textures, with seasonal planting and unique features such as dry stone walling and willow structures.

The Quince Honey Farm team are passionate about bees and the role pollinators play in our eco-system, and the only stipulation for the new gardens is that all planting should be bee-friendly. It means that it will have an exciting place in the natural world, as it will become the first known gardens and woodland in the UK planted specifically for bees.

Plans are also afoot to create a bespoke, eye-catching building to house the unique BeeWorld Exhibition and Beekeeping Museum.

Ruby Mapp, Marketing & Business Development Manager said, “We are creating an enjoyable, educational and unique attraction for people of all ages. To open the doors on this exciting project, welcome visitors in and see all our hard work come to fruition will be extremely rewarding.”

There will be plenty of opportunities to visit and take a look for yourself; the special launch weekend takes place on Saturday 6 and Sunday 7 April, and from then it will be open seven days a week. Please visit the website for further details: www.quincehoneyfarm.co.uk/

PHOTO: Courtesy of The Maker Series


TOP 100 RANKING FOR THREE ACRES COUNTRY HOUSE EXMOOR

The Visit England Rose Awards 2018 were announced at the Independent Hotel Show in London on Tuesday and one Exmoor establishment was awarded the prestigious accolade of being among the Top 100 accommodation providers in the country.

The national Rose Award is presented to a range of outstanding hotels, B&Bs, guest houses and self-catering establishments, in recognition of their excellence in customer service. Nominations are put forward by Visit England Quality Scheme assessors and selected from assessor comments and feedback from overseas and domestic visitors. Winners are selected by a final judging panel looking for innovation that sets the business apart.

Winners of the title include Exmoor-based Three Acres Country House, a luxury guest house set in secluded peaceful grounds near Dulverton. A family business run by owners Edward and Julie Christian, they are assessed by Visit England who have consistently graded them with the highest ranking of 5 Stars with Breakfast and Gold Awards since 2007.

Edward and Julie Christian commented: “We are delighted that the high standards at Three Acres Country House have been commended because we go to great efforts to provide our guests with a comfortable, relaxed and enjoyable stay on Exmoor. To receive such praise from Visit England, the leading industry body who judge with impartiality, is reassuring both to us and visitors. We are keen to champion the wonders of Exmoor and feel privileged to be in a position to be able to share it with others.”

Three Acres Country House, Brushford, Dulverton, Somerset TA22 9AR
Tel: 01398 323730
www.threeacresexmoor.co.uk
Read more:  www.visitbritain.org/visitengland-announces-winners-2018-rose-awards

EXMOOR’S RIGHTS OF WAY RATED FIRST-CLASS

The following is a press release issued by ENPA

Rights of way on Exmoor have been assessed as some of the best in the country for a second year running, in the National Path Authority’s newly published annual Rights of Way and Access Report*.

96 per cent of public footpaths, bridleways and byways were classed as ‘open and easy to use’ – the highest of all National Parks, and the number of issues resolved within three months has increased to 84 per cent.

The report also records the highest ever output of ‘National Park furniture’ – with a total of 831 signs, 404 sign posts and 155 gates having been constructed and installed this year alone, using timber sourced from the National Park’s own woodland estate.

Lots of the assessment work is carried out by National Park volunteers, who this year provided crucial feedback on paths throughout 11 parishes, totalling 360 hours of work.

Each season they help to survey a randomly selected set of paths covering 10 per cent of the network. Using nationally recognised assessment criteria, volunteers score each route according to how easy it is to navigate, the state of vegetation, and the condition of stiles, gates, signage and surfaces.

Kevin Snewing, Path Watcher Volunteer, said: “A bonus of being a Path Watcher volunteer is that I get to walk parts of the National Park that I probably wouldn’t normally visit, and there are some gems out there. I was particularly impressed by the network above Lynton.”

Dan Barnett, Access and Recreation Manager, said: “Keeping the rights of way network in top condition is crucially important, not just for people’s enjoyment but also to protect precious habitats and reduce disturbance to farming. But we wouldn’t be able to achieve these kinds of targets without ongoing support from our partners and highly-skilled contractors, along with donations from the public through CareMoor for Exmoor, plus our fantastic volunteers. It really is a team effort.”

For more information about National Park volunteering opportunities visit: www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk/get-involved

SALAD DAYS HUT RECOGNISED IN ‘LOVE YOUR HUT’ AWARDS

Following on from previous tourism award, Salad Days Beach Hut at Dunster Beach has now been recognised in the Love your Hut of the Year competition, coming 3rd in the converted national contest, with beach huts at Mudeford in Dorset and Dovercourt in Essex taking 1st and 2nd place.

Run by the Yorkshire-based specialist hut insurance company, ‘Love your Hut’, the competition is open to entries from all kinds of huts including chalets, beach huts and shepherds huts from all over the UK.

“To be ranked so highly in a major national competition is such an honour, but it does also recognise how far the humble beach hut has come since its lowly beginnings as a Victorian bathing machine,’’ said Brett Bates, co-owner of Salad Days (above).

Salad Days has received numerous accolades since launching in 2016 and has been incredibly successful, having being fully booked for the last two years with many guests returning. Previous awards won include: 2017/18 Visit England Dog Friendly Business of the Year, 2017/18 South West Dog Friendly & Self Catering Business of the Year, 2017/18 Bristol, Bath & Somerset Self Catering & Dog Friendly Business of the Year and 2016/17 Bristol, Bath & Somerset Dog Friendly Business of the Year.

The beach hut has also been ranked by Visit England as 5 stars for the last 2 years, the only beach hut to receive this ranking in the UK. It is 1 of around 260 beach huts at Dunster Beach, a large proportion of which are still holiday lets. Traditionally Dunster Beach has welcomed holidaymakers since the 1930s, and Brett Bates and Susan Juggins are continuing this tradition with Salad Days by offering a high standard of accommodation in a quintessential British beach hut. Brett said, “Our new hut ‘Holi Moli’ – due to be available to rent in March –  is intended to follow in the footsteps of Salad Days, but has some big shoes to fit into, we owe it to Dunster Beach to make sure the huts just get better and better, so watch this space.”

All of the entrants in this year’s ‘Love your Hut’ competition can be seen on the @LoveyourHutoftheYear Instagram page at www.instagram.com/loveyourhutoftheyear

AUTISM-FRIENDLY EXMOOR

Tucked away on the fringes of Exmoor National Park you will find a self-catering farm complex with a difference. North Hayne Farm  is a happy, vibrant business where young children run freely, collecting eggs, bottle-feeding lambs and helping with farm duties. The complex of eight, high-standard, stone-built cottages, however, goes that little bit further as it also specialises in providing holidays for children with autism. North Hayne Farm is the first business in North Devon to achieve the National Autism Society (NAS) ‘Autism Friendly Award’.

Owner Cheryl Dixon, a former early years practitioner and lecturer, began to notice a marked increase in visitors who had children on the autism spectrum back in 2012. Over the following years she saw how these children benefitted from small changes her and her husband Roger made to the website, to the cottages, to the arrival and welcome process and, in particular, to the structured farm routines that were a major part of the holiday experience they offered.

“We wanted to further our understanding and undertook some formal staff training from the Devon Autism Centre. This, together with the support and encouragement from our wonderful visiting families, gave us the confidence to enter for the award,” says Cheryl.  “Autism is no longer that misunderstood condition it once was, and yet so many children with autism and their families struggle to find suitable holidays that can make the world of difference to them all.”

Cheryl and Roger were thrilled to learn that they had successfully achieved the award, and a little surprised to learn that we are the first business in North Devon to attain this. “How great would it be if more businesses could join us in helping to make Devon and Exmoor a more autism-friendly destination?” says Cheryl. “Simple changes to everyday routines can make huge differences but fundamentally two things really make the difference; firstly, remaining non-judgmental when you meet someone who may be on the ‘spectrum’ and therefore behave just that little bit differently to what you might expect, and secondly, taking the time to raise your own awareness of the condition.”

So many of the parents visiting North Hayne Farm who have children on the ASD spectrum comment on little things that will have made such a difference to their overall holiday experience. It might be the assistant who showed such patience or thoughtfulness when queuing for a ride became too difficult, or the waiter who handed out ‘fidget toys’ while their child waited for their meal, or even the person at one of the theme parks who noticed that communication was difficult and began to ‘sign’ instead.

As Cheryl says, “It all makes such a difference and from a tourism point of view makes so much sense. Why go somewhere different when you experience such a positive and understanding approach to your family’s needs right here on Exmoor?”

For more information contact Cheryl Dixon at North Hayne Farm Cottages:  info@northhaynefarmcottages.co.uk

PHOTO: Cheryl and Roger with their award

MINEHEAD’S MARITIME MILE

News Release From West Somerset Council

Minehead’s Maritime Mile was launched last week, to give the resort a fresh, new boost designed to attract more visitors in time for the start of the main holiday season.

At an informal ceremony last Tuesday, Minehead’s Deputy Mayor Cllr Gail Everett cut the ribbon to open the new attraction.

The £80,000 project, largely funded through LEADER – an EU scheme that allocates money to help rural areas – will complement the Enterprising Minehead project that has won substantial funding to make the resort the go-to seaside destination by making the most of its traditional appeal as a seaside resort – with a twenty-first-century twist.

The Maritime Mile creates a new heritage interpretation trail, running the length of the seafront to showcase Minehead’s maritime history, myths and legends. The trail has the central theme of ‘find and follow the shells’ and be way-marked to draw people along the route. It will link to existing features like the South West Coast Path and England Coast Path.

An open-air gallery is being built at the trail’s central point to display images and artefacts from Minehead’s past. And there’s an App (suitable for Android and iOS devices).

The App features a quiz designed to entice people to walk to the Harbour and complete the trail, those presenting correct answers to Minehead Visitor Centre will be eligible to collect a prize. This feature technology will also link to the new Minehead destination website for visitors widening Minehead’s appeal as a tourist destination.

The new, high-tech App features *augmented reality, videos and 3D images to make the walk more exciting and interactive – and it links to the new website being launched – www.mineheadbay.co.uk – to further enhance Minehead’s appeal to new and wider audiences.

The state-of-the-art responsive website has been developed to capitalise on marketing the town as a key destination and will also link to the seafront trail/walk and its innovative technology.

The Minehead Coastal Community Team projects have been developed in collaboration with Minehead Museum, Minehead Development Trust, and Butlin’s.

Cllr Andrew Hadley, West Somerset Council’s Lead Member for economic regeneration, said: “The Maritime Mile showcases Minehead’s history and heritage and is a great new feature to enhance what we can now offer our visitors – and encourage more people to enjoy Minehead.

“We are lucky to have a fascinating history that can be brought to life through harnessing the incredible technology that is available now. “

Katrina Midgley, who chairs Minehead Coastal Community Team, added: “This is the first in a series of enhancements to Minehead’s Esplanade, aimed at attracting local people and tourists to enjoy our seafront. I am delighted to see the work of Minehead Coastal Community Team coming to life. I would like to thank everyone who has been instrumental in making this happen.”

*Augmented reality uses computer-aided graphics to add an additional layer of information to aid understanding and/or interaction with the physical world around you.

PHOTO: Ribbon cutting: from the left are Katrina Midgley (MCCT chair), Nicky Bradley, Bernard Maynard-Smith, Gail Everett (Minehead Deputy Mayor), Gary Woolmer, Maureen Smith, Nicki Maclean, Roger Thomas, Mandy Chilcott.