Taking the slow road to recovery
LIFE in the slow lane could be the route to success for the dale’s most remote areas.
So-called “slow tourism” was the focus of the North Pennines AONB Forum, which was held as an online event this year due to the Covid alert.
Slow tourism was originally rooted in the slow food movement, with its connection to local produce, regional cuisine and a communal approach to preparing and sharing food.
The idea that faster isn’t always better highlights how the traveller experiences more by slowing down, walking and cycling more, immersing themselves in a destination and connecting with people.
Businesses and tourism organisations from across the North Pennines AONB and UNESCO Global Geopark used the forum to discuss whether slow tourism is the way to success and recovery post-Covid-19.
Shane Harris, responsible tourism lead at the AONB Partnership, said the North Pennines was well placed to take advantage of slow tourism.
He said: “The world has turned upside down since Covid and tourism businesses have been hard hit.
“Slow is about making deeper connections with people and places, and here in the North Pennines we have great strengths that lend themselves to this type of travel.”
He said stargazing, walking trails and rights of way offered many opportunities for visitors to enjoy the area at a slower pace of life.
He said: “Slow tourism experiences which cater for mind, body and spirit, bringing in some the area’s best assets such as outstanding nature or pristine dark skies, can help businesses to move forward after the pandemic.”
The AONB Partnership offers a tourism toolkit to support businesses to highlight the area’s special qualities and potential for slow tourism in their own marketing.
Michelle Gorman, managing director of Visit County Durham, talked about the impact of the Covid pandemic on the tourism industry and discussed how “slow” would be an intrinsic part of recovery as businesses look to change their approach to meet changes in demand and in consumer behaviour.
She highlighted the Northern Saints Trails, a long-term project involving six regional walks which will be launched next year.
One of the six initial trails comes through part of the North Pennines and it is hoped that further trails will be developed in future phases of the project.
A business perspective came from Daniel Holder, owner of The Quiet Site, in Ullswater, who highlighted the way his business has made changes to its operations to make it a sustainable and low carbon option for travellers.
By linking up with other business owners he has introduced a four-day “Pod ‘n’ Pedal” break, which begins in the north of Cumbria and works its way south via country lanes, roads and cycle paths, suitable for both road and mountain bikes, staying in three spectacular locations along the route.
Naomi Foster, geology projects officer at the AONB, introduced geotourism – a form of sustainable tourism that focuses on earth heritage and an appreciation of what makes a particular location special in terms of its nature and culture.
Meanwhile Fiona Knox from the AONB’s new Fellfoot Forward Landscape Partnership Scheme presented the idea of a landscape with “slow” trails which offer the chance to delve deeper into the history and cultural heritage of this special part of the world.
To find out more about the North Pennines Tourism Network go to www.northpen nines.org.uk/what_we_do/tourism/tourismtoolkit.