Norfolk’s long-distance trails set for £550,000 funding boost
09:48 09 August 2014
Archant © 2014
Norfolk’s long-distance trails – which attract hundreds of thousands of local visitors and tourists – are to get a half-million pound boost.
Norfolk County Council has secured £550,000 funding to develop and promote the county’s trails, which latest research suggests, already contribute £12m annually to the regional economy.
Work has started this month on improving signage along Weavers’ Way and Paston Way in north Norfolk – which together attracted more than 100,000 visitors last year – to make them easier to navigate for walkers and cyclists.
The project will also work with tourism businesses in a corridor five miles each side of the trails, helping them to improve their marketing and use of social media.
The aim is to bring more walkers on to Norfolk’s trails and, importantly, to generate jobs in rural communities.
Those venturing out on the Norfolk trails this summer are being offered the chance to win a host of goodies in a new photo competition, Norfolk Trails’ Treasure.
The competition urges everyone, from walkers to cyclists, to photograph what it is they treasure when out and about on the Norfolk trails.
It could be that you capture a coastal sunset on Weavers’ Way, discover an old church on Paston Way, or spot some wildlife while trekking on one of the trails through the Norfolk Broads. Whatever the journey, the team that looks after the Norfolk trails is urging you to capture those exciting discoveries in your best shot and share it with them on social media.
The competition runs until September 30 and will see judges Brian Hannah, chairman of Norfolk County Council; Nigel Pickover, Eastern Daily Press and Norwich Evening News editor; and David Yates, Norfolk County Council’s senior trails officer, each pick their top two favourites to go through to the finals.
The six finalists will see their images go to a public vote for a chance to win prizes, including £100 to spend at Cotswolds Outdoor and the winning photo made into a canvas print.
Launching the competition, Mr Hannah said: “There is such an abundance of natural and historic treasures along the hundreds of miles of walking, cycling and bridle paths which make up the Norfolk trails and I’d urge people of all ages to get out this summer and have a go at capturing their favourites.”
With entries for those aged 13 or over accepted via the Norfolk trails’ official Twitter, Facebook and Flickr groups, there will also be a special category for under 13s, who are invited to enter via email. Throughout the contest, the Norfolk trails team will be sharing, retweeting and liking entries, as well as uploading them all to the official Norfolk Trails’ Treasure Flickr group.
Find out more about the competition and how to enter at www.norfolk.gov.uk/norfolktrailstreasure
The scheme is being driven by cash from the EU’s COOL Tourism project, which aims to boost tourism in rural areas across Europe, and coastal community funding from the UK government.
The COOL Tourism funding is being targeted on the Weavers’ Way and Paston Way in a triangular area which stretches from Norwich to Great Yarmouth and up to Cromer.
Paul Williams, a north Norfolk district councillor and director of Visit North Norfolk Coast and Countryside, hailed the scheme as an important step towards extending the season outside the school summer holidays.
“Hopefully it will help businesses stay open longer and create jobs; certainly in north Norfolk we have got funding available for apprenticeships,” he said. Chris Scargill, tourism and leisure partner at Larking Gowen chartered accountants, said: “Funding for projects of this nature are great news for our tourism sector.
Two routes through stunning scenery
■ WEAVERS’ WAY:
Named after the once important weaving industry, which flourished in the Middle Ages around North Walsham, the Weavers’ Way runs for 61 miles between Cromer and Great Yarmouth. It offers a rich contrast of scenery, from the woodlands and mixed farmland of North Norfolk to the grazing marshes beside the Thurne, Bure and Yare on the Broads.
Outstanding features include a number of flint churches, large country houses (including Blickling and Felbrigg), wind pumps and historic railway infrastructure such as station buildings, bridges and crossing cottages. Some parts of the trail are available for cyclists and horse riders.
■ PASTON WAY:
A 29-mile trail between North Walsham and Cromer, connecting 14 of Norfolk’s beautiful churches. The route takes walkers down quiet lanes, through towns and villages, across arable fields and grazing pastures with stunning views of the North Sea. The Paston Way takes its name from the Paston family who, during the medieval and Tudor periods, were the dominant and wealthy landowners in the area.
“Norfolk has a fantastically diverse offering and to have a focus on the rural areas identified in this campaign, away from the traditional hotspots, will not only benefit these areas, but the county as a whole.”
Pete Waters, brand manager for Visit Norfolk, said: “This is an important project for Norfolk as it builds on our year-round tourism infrastructure and helps to attract visitors out of the traditional season.
“With its gentle undulations, our county is the perfect place for walking and cycling and it can be done by people of all ages and fitness levels.”
Project manager Laura Timewell said: “Norfolk trails have featured in the county’s top 10 tourist attractions over the past few years in terms of visitor numbers, showing the importance of trails like the Paston Way and Weavers’ Way to the regional economy.
“The aim of the project is to increase the number of visitors coming to north-east Norfolk to walk, cycle and experience the heritage and wildlife of the countryside.”
She said the first step had been to research what tourism, especially walking and cycling, meant to Norfolk.
“Using various economic impact models we have been able to produce some staggering figures,” she said.
“Tourism in Norfolk is worth £2.8bn per annum, Norfolk trails generate directly and indirectly about £12m per annum. Weavers’ Way received 46,000 visitors last year and Paston Way 35,000.”
The £12m valuation had been based on people-counting against Natural England’s average spend figures for walkers/cyclists.
As part of the scheme, support and free marketing would be offered to businesses wishing to increase the number of walkers, cyclists and horse riders visiting their establishments.
“Free social media and other ICT training is also being offered to suit all levels in order to help these businesses better market themselves and the wonderful rural area in which they live,” Ms Timewell said.
Working with partners from across the EU involved in COOL Tourism, they would also be producing a toolkit for small and medium-sized rural tourism businesses, giving them information on how to save money, how to use social media effectively, how to create an itinerary for their customers and many other useful tips and resources.
To market the trails, Norfolk agency Tribe PR has been appointed to deliver a year-long PR campaign highlighting the wealth of rural attractions in the county.
Ms Timewell added that towns and villages along the trails were being encouraged to sign up to Walkers are Welcome, a national accreditation which sets out to improve facilities and signage for walkers.
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