[this blog first appeared on greentraveller]
The National Forest has launched a new visitors’ website with a focus on ‘going green’.
The site emphasises eco-friendly attractions and places to stay within the forest, and encourages visitors to use public transport and explore by bike or on foot rather than driving.
The National Forest covers an area of 200 square miles in Leicestershire, Derbyshire and Staffordshire, and 7.7 million trees have already been planted since the project began in 1991.
Low-impact accommodation within the forest includes the YHA National Forest, which has bio-fuel boilers and solar panels and collects rainwater to flush the loos. At Roliston Forestry Centre there are six sustainable-timber lodges, and visitors can camp at the Conkers Camping and Caravanning Club. The website also highlights hotels and guesthouses which have achieved a Green Tourism Business Scheme award.
Most of the National Forest’s visitors are day-trippers but the number of people staying overnight is rising, up from 4% in 2001 to 10% in 2007. “It’s an area that we’re really targeting because overnight stays bring more economic benefit to the destination and they have a smaller impact on the environment than the same increase in day visitors,” explains Penny Wilkinson of the National Forest Company. “Our job is to try to get them to use sustainable transport methods when they are here.”
Most visitors currently come by car, but Penny says they hope this will change: “We actively promote cycle hire and we’re developing more trails and facilities for cycling. We’ve supported several new off-road routes, for example, including over 20km of new and improved trails.”
There is a special family cycling route, the Conkers Circuit, and a further 14km of family-friendly off-road trails will be developed soon. Links to routes 6, 54 and 63 of the National Cycle Network are also to be promoted.
A ‘hop on, hop off’ open-top bus in the summer months helps people get around, and the forest hopes to increase groups visiting by coach as opposed to individuals coming by car.
The National Forest only has one railway station, Burton upon Trent, within it but visitors will be encouraged to use stations in towns like Loughborough, Tamworth, and Lichfield as entry points. Penny adds that expanding canal access could provide more ‘green access’ in the future.
The ‘going green’ section of the new website also encourages the purchase of local produce, with a 12-page guide from the National Forest Food Network, and highlights forest activities like planting trees, woodland crafts and llama trekking.
New features elsewhere on the site include downloadable maps for short, medium and long walks; an expanded cycling section with maps; and more comprehensive information on the other attractions and activities available in the forest.