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'Countryside Matters!'©

Countryside Matters!©

The following is a press release from the Countryside Agency:-
28 January 2002

YOUR COUNTRYSIDE, YOU’RE WELCOME

- national campaign and ‘grass roots’ movement launched today -

Today, at Hatton Country World in the heart of the Warwickshire countryside, Rural Affairs Minister Alun Michael and Heritage Minister Tessa Blackstone, join forces with a range of interested organisations and associations to formally launch ‘Your Countryside, You’re Welcome’, a new campaign to encourage people into the English countryside in 2002.

The campaign has brought together close to 50 organisations - as diverse as the National Federation of Women’s Institutes, the Ramblers Association, the National Trust, English Heritage and the Outdoor Industries Association - in order to promote the wide ranging benefits of the English countryside and to remind people that the countryside is well and truly open for business now that Foot and Mouth is over. The campaign is supported by DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs), the DCMS (Department for Culture, Media and Sport), the English Tourism Council and The Countryside Agency. The four official bodies are acting as co-ordinators for the wider group and are helping to communicate the generic ‘visit the countryside’ message.

As part of the campaign, March 11-17 will be designated ‘Your Countryside, You’re Welcome’ Week. This focus will encourage people directly into the countryside for the forthcoming Easter period, as well as aid people’s planning for summer and beyond. Ministers, celebrities and other opinion formers will be showing their support by visiting the countryside at this time and participating organisations will be announcing a range of special events and offers for the campaign. For example, the National Trust is supporting the initiative by hosting 50 events during this week and running special ‘two for one’ offers throughout the year.

In addition to offers such as these, a number of more grass roots initiatives are being planned throughout the year. Members of Women’s Institutes in rural areas across England will begin a letter writing and e-mail campaign, inviting friends and family to visit and today, the National Association of Farms for Schools launches a special pack for primary schools, encouraging teachers to discuss the countryside in class. A large number of farms across England will also be opening their gates and inviting schoolchildren to visit.

“It is essential that we all make every effort to welcome people to the countryside for 2002,” says Rural Affairs Minister Alun Michael. “We have one of the world’s most beautiful and diverse rural landscapes, offering a wealth of interesting things to see and do. This unique partnership between organisations and government, plus those commercial companies that are joining this movement, is now working hard to get that message across. It is a rare opportunity to re-connect town and country - something that was needed before Foot and Mouth, but a high priority which everyone now understands.”

Minister for Tourism, Kim Howells, says: "We want to win back tourists, be they from home or abroad. This campaign extends an open invitation to everyone to rediscover our countryside. Whether you're into walking, wildlife or white-water rafting, our countryside has it all. Be it for a couple of hours, a weekend or a holiday, our message is simple, it's your countryside, you're welcome."

Heritage Minister, Baroness Blackstone, says: "Our countryside has a rich history that's the envy of the world. I urge people to rediscover and explore the riches on our doorstep."

Support for ‘Your Countryside, You’re Welcome’ campaign

Almost nine out of ten rural businesses across the country (86 per cent) are feeling confident about their prospects in 2002. But 83 per cent of those questioned in a recent survey still welcome the support this type of campaign will bring.

The general public too has given the campaign the thumbs-up: 89 per cent of those questioned feel that people should be encouraged to visit the countryside, and 64 per cent said that they would be spending more time in the countryside this year.

Patrick Mower, Emmerdale’s Rodney Blackstock is just one of the celebrities supporting the campaign:“ ‘Your Countryside, You’re Welcome’ is a terrific initiative and now that the footpaths are open again, I wholeheartedly encourage people to get into the countryside this year. I live in the heart of the rolling wolds of Lincolnshire and am fortunate enough to be only a short journey from the magnificent Yorkshire Dales where we film. The Dales are one of my favourite places. In fact, my wife and I have plans to take Maxim, our three-year old son and our ponies trekking there this weekend. We also hope to revisit East Riddlesden Hall and its colourful flower gardens, where we have spent many a happy afternoon in the past. The countryside is open for business, come and join us!”

Campaign Website Goes Live Today

In addition to planned information guides and the literature of the stakeholder organisations, advice on what to do and where to go will be obtainable through www.yourcountryside.info. In addition, people will be encouraged to call Tourist Information Centres for the most up to date local information.


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