Dorset to France on a bike

Vive le vélo! Dorset set for business boost from a £7.6 million tourist initiative with real ‘wheel appeal’
• Three new international cycling routes will boost green tourism and bring Britain and France closer together
• Weymouth and Poole will provide ‘cross border’ biking links
• Business boost for tourist attractions, B&Bs, cafes, camp sites, pubs and bike shops

Dorset businesses are being encouraged to brush up on their French in preparation for thousands of two-wheeled French tourists coming to our shores. Details of a massive new European-funded initiative to boost green tourism have been announced – with the county set to be a major beneficiary.

‘Cycle West’ is harnessing €8,682,000 (£7.6m) of European ‘INTERREG’* funding to develop and promote cycle tourism for the ever-growing international army of ‘visitors on wheels’. Some 1,840km (1,100 miles) of new and enjoyable cycling routes will take in some of the most beautiful countryside and outstanding attractions in South West England, Normandy and Brittany.

On June 21st, at a press launch in London, the project leaders reported on the progress to date and set out their vision for a future where tens of thousands of additional tourists each year will be pedalling their way round the three regions of South West England, Brittany and Normandy. And ‘La Manche’ will present no obstacle: where a route reaches a port in one country, ferry transport will enable cyclists to continue on the other side.

The project, which was initially announced in March 2010, has been making rapid progress ever since, and the latest development is a new website www.cycle-west.com (which will be used to promote tourist attractions along the routes as well as accommodation, places to dine and bike shops). Further marketing activity will raise awareness of the routes amongst the public and tourism industry.

The 17 French and English partners behind the project (which includes Dorset County Council and Weymouth & Portland Borough Council) believe the end result will be a huge boost in tourism – not only from overseas visitors but also from within their own countries.

Adam Bows of Dorset County Council is leading the three-year project within the county, using the European funding to oversee £270,000 worth of improvements to existing cycle routes, completing missing links and installing cycle parking at key attractions. “This is a good opportunity for the county to diversify and appeal to holidaymakers that don’t necessarily want a ‘bucket and spade’ holiday or a quiet weekend in the country,” he says. “We have miles of routes on quiet roads, bridleways and traffic free routes that really allow you to explore the beauty of our local countryside and coastline – some of which has World Heritage status.

“The county already receives 1.5 million tourists a year and many local jobs depend upon the money they spend – and we know that in Europe and in other parts of the UK, where cycling tourism is more developed, cyclists spend more per head than the average visitor.”

Supporting that argument is Weymouth and Portland Borough Councillor Andy Blackwood, Briefholder for Leisure and  Tourism; “The whole nature of tourism is changing and this is a fantastic chance for us to broaden our offer to appeal to the many people who want to have an adventure or a new experience on their holidays.”

“The 2012 Olympic Games will be putting Weymouth and Portland on the international map, and the Cycle West initiative will really help by attracting more visitors outside of the holiday peak times. We have such stunning local scenery, including large areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty… what better way to enjoy these than by bike? Businesses will need to respond to the opportunity – offering somewhere for guests to store and clean their bikes, for instance – and make sure we really give these visitors a warm, Dorset welcome.”  

There will also be new business opportunities in markets for cycle hire, cycling holidays, guided rides and baggage services which it is hoped the project will stimulate.

Dorset features prominently in two of the three new routes. The ‘Tour de Manche’ is a 1,000 km (600 miles) loop between Roscoff, Mont Saint Michel, Cherbourg, Poole, Dorchester, Torbay, Plymouth and back to Roscoff. It hugs the coastline on both sides of the English Channel, and passes though some sites of exceptional natural interest, including the Bay of Morlaix, the Pink Granite Coast, the Bay of Mont Saint Michel and the UNESCO designated Jurassic Coast.

The shorter ‘Petit Tour de Manche’ is 400 km (240 miles) long, a circular route between St Malo, Mont Saint Michel, Cherbourg, Poole, Dorchester, Weymouth, Jersey and back to St Malo. While shorter than the full ‘Tour de Manche’, this circular route still offers plenty of serious cycling – and also the opportunity to visit Jersey, the island where French and British cultures blend seamlessly together.

“While 240 or 600 miles might sound a bit daunting,” says Adam Bows, “I expect many people will just try shorter sections – including many British visitors who just have a few days to spend cycling between Poole and Weymouth. There really are some superb places to visit on or near that route – including Lulworth Cove, Durdle Door, Corfe Castle, Hardy’s Wessex and Chesil Beach.”

“Having local councils and tourist boards partnering up in all three regions will have a real impact on how much benefit everyone will gain from ‘Cycle West,” says Michael Dodds, Director of Brittany Tourist Board. “And it makes this a unique exercise in collaboration that will bring England and France much closer together.”

“Many more people will have the chance to sample each other’s culture and cuisine. We think the South West of England is a great destination for French visitors – and they will be seriously impressed with the food, the facilities and the warmth of local people. And I know that English visitors who come to Brittany and Normandy go home with the same, positive experience.”

It might also be time for more enterprising business people to brush up on their French!
Cyclists welcome! – Les cyclistes sont toujours les bienvenus!
Leave your bike here – Vous pouvez laisser votre vélo ici
Our delicious Full English Breakfast will keep you cycling all day – Notre petit déjeuner anglais est délicieux et vous aidera à rouler toute la journée


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