RURAL businesses in the Forest of Bowland will soon be ready to welcome visitors back to Bowland as demand for domestic ‘staycation’ holidays in the countryside looks set to rocket.

As the Forest of Bowland Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty launches its 2021 Discover Bowland Guide, members of the AONB’s Sustainable Tourism Network are gearing up for a busy year.

The guide also tells the stories of how a number of local businesses reinvented themselves during last year’s lockdown.

These positive ‘lockdown diaries’ include The Courtyard Dairy, at Austwick, where owners Andy and Kathy Swinscoe pivoted to online tastings and nationwide delivery, Slaidburn Central Stores, which became a community groceries hub and essential lifeline for outlying communities and Bowland e-bikes, which accelerated its growth plans as demand for eco-friendly electric bikes rocketed.

Forest of Bowland AONB sustainable tourism officer Hetty Byrne said: “2020 was a very challenging year for the rural economy, but we’ve been encouraged and inspired by the resilience and innovation shown by rural businesses in the Forest of Bowland and their determination to welcome tourists back when restrictions are lifted.

“Many of these enterprising small businesses really stepped up to support their local communities and have been busy preparing to welcome back visitors with even better facilities this year. We hope the Discover Guide and the new website will significantly increase awareness of Bowland and inspire visitors to stay longer and – ideally – spend more money with local businesses to do their bit to help the rural economy recover.”

Publication of the 112-page guide is partially funded by continuing support from the members of the Sustainable Tourism Network. The guide accompanies the launch of the Discover Bowland website last September – funded by the AONB and Champion Bowland, a local charity which provides small grants for environment and community projects in the AONB.

The AONB and Champion Bowland provided the seed capital to launch the site: with future funding to come from rural businesses who have signed up to participate.

The website is designed to promote the opportunities of a 300 square mile rural oasis and to showcase the lesser known hidden gems of the AONB.

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