Preparations are under way for Countryside 2011 following this year’s hugely successful inaugural campaign – and rural businesses in Sussex are being urged to sign up today.
Village communities, stately homes, farms, tea shops, hotels, B&Bs, vineyards and everything in between – all country-based event organisers, businesses and attractions across the county are being galvanised to join forces and help boost rural visitor numbers.
Rachel Simpson, Rural Programme Manager for Tourism South East, which is co-ordinating the campaign, said: “Many rural businesses, groups and communities across Sussex took advantage of this unique and free opportunity to attract new visitors, new members or new volunteers in year one. Now’s the chance for others to reap the same benefits by showing us all who they are and what they do.”
A wide range of events and activities enticed visitors into the Sussex countryside during the campaign’s pilot project, Countryside 2010. Many were free, including carnivals, ale and music festivals, exploring riverside ruins, getting fit at a green gym, family fun walks, bike rides and rambles, learning bush survival skills, exploring windmills and farms, food and drink festivals, country fairs, taster yachting trips, and wildlife explorations.
There was also the chance to try some more unusual activities or learn a new skill, including building shelters and learning how to light a fire at a bushcraft day, mountainboarding, hunting for and cooking wild food, paragliding, joining an archaeological excavation, or forest archery.
The National Trust recently suggested that townies were becoming ‘terrified’ of the countryside and were losing touch with the great outdoors. Rachel said: “This is a very valid concern and one which our own campaign has already begun to successfully address.
“In fact, the first year of our pioneering initiative had a hugely positive impact on rural visitor attractions and operators and encouraged thousands of people to take a fresh look at what our countryside has to offer.
“Our dedicated website attracted 27,000 hits and we used a number of social media channels to reach out to younger people. We gained more than 880 Facebook fans and 740 Twitter followers in year one. In 2011 we expect these audiences to increase considerably.”
Countryside 2010 culminated in a fortnight of events and activities in May and June throughout Sussex and eight other counties across the South East of England which attracted an estimated 12% more visitors than usual for the time of year, according to a sample survey carried out by Tourism South East.
More than 500 country-based organisers joined together to offer 823 events during the campaign, which attracted half a million people – 38,000 of which were new visitors to the countryside.
Countryside 2011’s ‘fortnight of discovery’ takes place from 28 May to 12 June. All organisers in Sussex who meet the campaign criteria can add their attractions, events or activities to the Countryside 2011 programme free of charge. For full details of the campaign and how to register visit www.countryside2011.org.uk.