Exmoor National Park attracts more than two million visitors a year, which in turn, generates almost £130 million for the rural economy. For many of those tourists, walking in the local countryside is the top activity.
The project supports local tourism through the Hinkley Tourism Action Partnership. £22,000 from the partnership’s £2.45 million pot has been awarded to help Exmoor National Park create a suite of new self-guided walks, and an interactive website to promote them.
The first of these collections has now been launched – 10 short Exmoor Explorer walks. From smugglers’ coves, Exmoor ponies and the shaded ancient oak woodlands of Horner, to the riverside beauty of Heddon’s Mouth and romance of the Doone Valley, the routes are designed to help people discover the scenery, wildlife and history of the national park. They’ll also help locals to explore what’s on their doorstep more easily.
They were launched in time to take advantage of the easing of lockdown travel restrictions and reopening of many shops, outdoor hospitality, tourist attractions, and accommodation.
Following people’s feedback, the routes are shorter than many previous existing walks, ranging from two kilometres to just under eight kilometres for those wanting to spend more time in the parklands.
Two more collections of walks – Exmoor Classics and Easier Access Exmoor – will launch in the next 12 months, and also keep an eye out for a new dark sky discovery trail coming this autumn that Hinkley Point C has also helped fund through the Hinkley Tourism Action Partnership.
Dan James, Rural Enterprise Manager for Exmoor National Park, said: “It’s been great to see the return of visitors to Exmoor. Communities, businesses and partners have all been working together to encourage safe, responsible visits ahead of a busy summer. Our Explorer Walks are a fantastic way to find your new favourite place on Exmoor and discover not just its best-known parts, but also lesser-known ones.
“We want to help people really get under the skin of the place, to understand something of the story of people and nature that has given rise to this amazing landscape, and to do so in a way that is sustainable and accessible to most visitors.
“We’re grateful for Hinkley Point C’s support in making this possible, along with the accompanying website and videos offering a taste of the new walks.”
You can browse the walks online at exmoorwalks.org. Route guides are also available to go with them at £1 per walk or £8 for all 10. You can buy them online or from the National Park Centres in Lynmouth, Dunster and Dulverton.
IMAGES: © Exmoor National Park
Blaze a trail...
Now lockdown is easing, other projects supported by Hinkley Point C funding, such as Watchet Museum and the Steam Trail, are opening up. These attractions are helping to entice visitors and boost tourism in the area.
Minehead Museum has received two grants from the HPC Community Fund, along with The Thomas Poole Library, in Nether Stowey, which provides a tourist gateway to the Coleridge Way.
Val Bishop, Programmes Director at Somerset Community Foundation, who manage the Fund, said: “Minehead Museum saw a big increase in visitor numbers in 2019 after the first HPC Community Fund grant of £5,000. We’re delighted to have been able to fund them again to help to digitise their collection to make it available online. They are a volunteer-led organisation which makes a valuable contribution to the tourism offer in Minehead, as well as sharing the town’s rich heritage with the Minehead and West Somerset community.”
£80,000 of funding from the HPC Community Fund has also been committed to The Onion Collective for East Quay – a £7 million development. This will be used to create an art gallery, exhibition space and education area in Watchet.