On these pages you will find a plethora of articles about our current or past projects. You will also find some examples of our work on the page Track Record and a list of our services under Fields of Expertise. If you would like any more information about any of the projects mentioned just get in touch.
Posted on: 25th October 2012
EUROPARC Consulting to carry out an independent objective evaluation
“The landscapes on our doorstep are spectacular. They are ancient. They are diverse. They’re full of stories…spine-tingling stories that set your eyes alight and your hair on end…Somehow hearing the stories of our landscapes can make you feel more alive, refreshed, enhanced.” www.our-land.co.uk/copy/about-us
Reconnecting people with nature is currently a hot topic within the EUROPARC network and also across Europe in the field of nature conservation. Europe’s protected areas, nature conservationists and environmental organisations are increasingly driven by the question ‘how can we get the general public more interested in what we do?’ “Our Land – Experiences to Treasure” is a pioneering project that has taken this issue a step further. The initiative uses a unique mix of storytelling and sustainable tourism to awaken interest in nine designated landscapes in the South East of England.
The members of the South East Protected Landscapes group (SEPL), the Chilterns Conservation Board, Cotswolds Conservation Board, High Weald AONB, Isle of Wight AONB, Kent Downs AONB, New Forest National Park, North Wessex Downs AONB, South Downs National Park and Surrey Hills AONB, many of whom are EUROPARC members, are the initiators of “Our Land”. For a number of years they have been considering ways of promoting and developing sustainable tourism together. They discovered that what connected each landscape was their distinctiveness and the reflection of this in a variety of local stories. The resulting four year project, “Our Land”, is hosted by Surrey County Council and funded by the Rural Development Programme for England.
After a separately funded feasibility study the scheme began in earnest at the end of 2010. One of the main outputs of the project has already been achieved: an online platform, www.our-land.co.uk, has been created where the participating landscapes collectively promote sustainable tourism. The website also promotes and sells a variety of SEPL holiday experiences that were developed specifically for the project. These holidays are also being promoted by the projects official media partner responsibletravel.com.
What’s new and innovative about this project is not necessarily the online platform itself but the way the experiences are being marketed. The short breaks that Our Land offers are being sold as experiences. They have been hand-picked for their sustainability and for their ability to create a strong connection between Our Landers and the landscape they are visiting and thus a meaningful travel experience. Each member business has to fulfil “The Promise to Our Land” before they can participate. By completing The Promise they demonstrate their commitment to the local region, to sustainable practices, and pledge to put the landscape at the heart of the visitor experience by telling stories of its food, buildings, history, people and wildlife. This approach not only boosts revenue in these beautiful places but also guarantees their effective long-term protection.
So how is EUROPARC Consulting involved in this innovative project? We are delighted to have been contracted to carry out an independent objective evaluation of Our Land and to be working closely with these nine spectacular protected areas. As the leading European company that specialises in protected area management we can bring our depth of experience and understanding of how these distinctive landscapes require care and also provide opportunities for sustainable tourism. Our job will be to assess the progress of the initiative so far and make recommendations for its effectiveness and operation until the project ends in 2014 as well as for its continued strategic development after that.
The EUROPARC Consulting team, Sue Goodfellow and Richard Partington with support from Wilf Fenten and Anne Webster back in the office, bring exactly the right skills and experience to carry out these tasks competently and efficiently. They are all very much looking forward to helping these protected landscapes in the UK to achieve their goals and deliver projects which are at the very heart of the EUROPARC ethos - sharing knowledge and learning about these special places and the people who live in and visit them. Sue and Richard will listen to those involved and produce robust recommendations which will promote new ideas and suggestions alongside undertaking a clear evaluation. These together will lay strong foundations for the future of the project.
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Posted on: 12th October 2012
Awe-inspiring landscapes, untouched nature, rich heritage and traditional communities: These are just some of the reasons why national parks, nature parks and other designated protected areas are becoming some of Europe’s most popular holiday destinations. In light of the increasing number of visitors more and more places are turning to a tourism that ensures these fragile assets remain intact and that brings additional benefits to the local population.
Monte Rufeno Nature Reserve, Italy, has been combining tourism and nature conservation successfully since its establishment in 1983. The small but stunning reserve (2900 ha) is situated on the border between Umbria and Tuscany. Its rolling hills and beautiful oak woodlands that follow the course of the Paglia River are perfect for exploring by bike or on foot. Today hardly anyone actually lives in the reserve but ancient farm houses scatter the landscape and can be spotted through the trees whilst taking one of the recommended tours. Small areas of pasture, olive groves and fields of wild flowers add to the charm of the region’s still fairly untouched countryside.
In 2004 Monte Rufeno decided that it was time to formalise the work they had been doing with regards to sustainable tourism. They applied and began to work towards the European Charter for Sustainable Tourism in Protected Areas (ECST), developed by the EUROPARC Federation, the umbrella organisation for European protected areas, in the 1990s. They are just one of 107 regions in 13 countries across Europe that has taken this step and boarded the sustainable tourism band-wagon.
Millions of tourists visit “Charter awarded” protected areas each year. Tourism brings many benefits to a region but can also put it under a lot of pressure. In natural areas, which are particularly fragile and where nature conservation is a priority, the trick lies in developing a tourism which preserves the environment on which its activity is based. Carefully built from the ground up, after much shared thinking, the ECST is a set of guidelines that helps Europe’s most treasured places to do just this. It reflects the international priorities expressed in the recommendations of Agenda 21 adopted at the Earth Summit in Rio in 1992 and by the European Union in its 6th Environment Action Programme and Strategy for Sustainable Development.
Subscribing to the ECST means taking a strategic approach to sustainable tourism development. To achieve Charter status protected areas must work their way through the ten Charter principles. These include working in partnership with all those implicated by tourism in and around the protected area and preparing and implementing a sustainable tourism strategy. EUROPARC Consulting, the consulting arm of the EUROPARC Federation, is responsible for administrating the Charter process and refers to this procedure as the “Charter journey”. From their years of experience with the ECST the company knows all too well that it can often be a long and windy path until the principles have been applied adequately. Both EUROPARC Consulting and the EUROPARC Federation therefore offer candidates advice and support along the way.
The benefits the journey brings, however hard it might be, are always worthwhile. The ECST creates lasting relationships - bringing communities together as they dedicate themselves to the continued development of sustainable tourism in the province. This is something that Monte Rufeno Nature Reserve has long since recognized and one of the many advantages that the reserve sees in being a Charter area.
The Charter journey began for Monte Rufeno eight years ago. It has been a tough course of action that took longer than anticipated due to a number of setbacks. A lack of funding a few years into the procedure meant that they could not continue implementing the Charter. They began all over again in 2010, a decision that was met with skepticism from the local businesses and authorities that had previously been involved. One of the challenges was to convince them, with a lot of hard work, intensive dialogue and face-to-face meetings, that achieving the Charter was possible and valuable.
In July this year, after a vigorous on-site evaluation by an independent verifier, the nature reserve received the good news from the ECST Evaluation Committee - they are now officially a Charter area. In fact they are the 100th protected landscape in Europe to have achieved Charter status. A milestone that has taken almost 20 years to reach and will be celebrated in style later this month at the annual EUROPARC Conference, the largest European networking event for protected area practitioners, that takes place from 22nd – 25th October in Genk, Belgium.
For each Charter area the path to reaching Charter status is different. It depends on many factors including the existing tourism infrastructure and of course the willingness of the local tourism bodies to work towards a greener tourism. Despite the difficulties that Monte Rufeno has had to overcome to obtain the award they still persevered. The reserve’s communication officer, Filippo Belisario, explains why it was so important to them: “The process has created a new, open dialogue between the reserve and many local people. It incites us to improve the way we work by looking at things from a European perspective. We now belong to a pan-European family of protected areas that are all working towards the same goal: sustainable tourism. It is wonderful to be able to exchange ideas and knowledge with like-minded colleagues.”
Monte Rufeno is honoured to be the 100th Charter area and sees it as a reason to increase its commitment to sustainable development in the region. “We plan to commemorate this achievement in the media on a local, regional and, with the help of Federparchi- EUROPARC Italy (the Italian Federation for protected areas), national level. We also look forward to sharing our success with fellow Charter areas on an international level at the ECST award ceremony”, Filippo says. The celebration will honour the 15 regions that joined the Charter network in 2012 as well as 18 areas that wish to continue the Charter journey and have successfully renewed their status after an initial five year period.
In December the application process for the ECST begins again. The number of applicants’ increases steadily every year. In 2012 EUROPARC Consulting is expecting dossiers from around 25 designated landscapes. It’s the flexible but strategic approach of the Charter that makes it increasingly popular. To be a “chartered” protected area is to be part of a journey of development, a continuous quest for successful, sustainable sharing of Europe’s green treasures. The tourism in these magical places helps to protect and conserve habitats and species, brings economic and social benefits for the locals and provides visitors with a meaningful travel experience. The stunning landscapes and delightful cultural highlights are often off the beaten track and certainly worth a visit.