Saturday, 16 November 2013

Plans to Boost Nature Tourism after Autumn Watch puts area in the spotlight

Swans on Lancaster Canal. Photo: John Freeman
Hot on the heels of the district’s brush with fame on the BBC’s Autumn Watch, a series of free workshops have been organised for local tourism businesses in early December.

The workshops aim to capitalise on the success of Autumn Watch, which was based at Leighton Moss and also covered Morecambe Bay, by creating a new business and visitor guide to the area.

The events have been organised by Bay Tourism Association in partnership with the RSPB and other organisations as part of the Nature Tourism Business Network.

Bay Tourism chairman, Roger Carter, said: “Morecambe Bay is a special place to do business. We want to show visitors the very best of the nature around the Bay, to give them the experiences they want so they’ll stay longer, come back again and tell their friends.”

It’s hoped that the new Tourism Business Guide will show visitors all that is fascinating, quirky and exciting about Morecambe Bay and will need input from people and businesses who know about its hidden gems, the best spots to explore, the greatest walks and bike rides, top places to shop and relax.

Those attending the workshops are invited to take along their ideas, photographs, stories and memories to share and learn new things from nature experts such as Sophie Cade from Nurture Lakeland who will show delegates how to create an adventure from their own doorstep.

Photo: Ben Hull via the RSPB
In addition to the publicity Autumn Watch has given our area, the workshops follow the publication of a report earlier in the year  by Jenny Wain from the RSPB, who compiled the report on behalf of the Morecambe Bay Nature Improvement Area. It shows Morecambe Bay has the potential to become a leading destination for nature tourism.

Based on the results of an extensive visitor survey carried out across Morecambe Bay in autumn 2012, the report built up a picture of who visits the area, why they come and how much they spend. It revealed that of those people surveyed nearly nine out of ten people would be interested in visiting places where they can see or experience wildlife. However, it shows only 55% of people surveyed had actually visited or planned to visit a nature attraction.

The RSPB says these results suggest that many more people would take part in nature tourism activities if they were made more aware of the opportunities to enjoy wildlife in Morecambe Bay. 

“Most people who visit the Bay say the area’s beautiful scenery is its main attraction," said Jenny back in June. "They are aware that the area is a great place for nature and would like to experience it, but clearly, they need more inspiration and information about where to see popular wildlife such as red deer and otters.”

The results of the visitor survey report are helping to shape the activities of the Morecambe Bay Nature Tourism Business Network, a fledgling group of over 60 businesses including accommodation and activity providers and nature and cultural attractions. Supported by Bay Tourism Association, the RSPB and Arnside and Silverdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the aim of the Network is to boost the local tourism economy by unlocking the potential of the Bay’s nature and wildlife.

Network members Vic and Diana Brown run Tythebarn House Bed and Breakfast in Holme. Vic says: ”Many of the people who stay at my B&B are stopping off on their way up to Scotland and have no idea of the amazing natural attractions Morecambe Bay has to offer. I believe the Bay has a lot more potential to develop as a visitor destination and the variety of wildlife is one of its main selling points.” 

The first task of the Network is to develop a series of guides and itineraries to enable visitors to get up close and personal with nature and celebrate the wealth of nature that lives in the limestone hills, grassland and woodlands that flank the Bay, as well as its rivers, estuaries and the sea, and also connect with cultural and heritage attractions.

“Our plan is to give visitors a wealth of options to see wildlife, which will provide the foundation for a thriving nature economy," says Jenny. "By inspiring people to visit places rich in nature around Morecambe Bay, we hope that they will make longer trips and, therefore, spend more money on activities, local accommodation, pubs, cafes and restaurants.”

• All the workshops are free, run from 11.00am-3.00pm and include lunch and refreshments. They take place on 3rd December at The Stork Inn, Conder Green; 4th December at Ulverston Golf Club; and 10th December at Leighton Moss Nature Reserve near Silverdale.

For more information or to book your place, contact Roger Carter at or Jenny Wain at or ring her on 01524 581013.

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