Ask any young Edinburgh Mountain Biker where they’d like to ride and the word “Glentress” is likely to get an early mention. Older ones will probably have it on their list too. There was a time when ‘The Pentlands’ (recent management plan, PDF 3.6 Mb) was the most likely destination, both in aspiration and reality.
The success of Glentress is an interesting mix of geography (steep hills), ownership (Forestry Commission Scotland which added the trees and trails) and people, including Emma Guy and Tracy Brunger who have created The Hub In The Forest (“friendly café and bike shop“), plus support from Scottish Borders Council and the Local Enterprise Company – Scottish Enterprise Borders.
Last week tenders were invited for a passenger uplift service at the downhill mountain bike venue at Innerleithen. This week it was announced that the report behind that move also said that “installing the world’s first dedicated mountain bike chairlift system in Innerleithen could create 200 new jobs and generate more than £6 million a year for the Scottish economy.”
The report was commissioned by Scottish Enterprise Borders. Its Director of Strategy, Dr Julian Pace, says – “The success of mountain biking at Traquair Forest and Glentress, means the Tweed Valley region is fast becoming a favourite location for beginners and enthusiasts. This report demonstrates there is now a real opportunity to capitalise on that success and position the Borders as one of the world’s leading mountain bike destinations.”
“We are now looking forward to working with our partners to identify how we progress with the chairlift system and ensure that future development at Tweed Valley will deliver significant economic benefits while minimising the impact on the local infrastructure, environment and community.”
Christina Tracey from Forestry Commission Scotland added – “We will continue to work with the partners in looking at the options for growing the venue in a sustainable way.” Bryan McGrath, Head of Economic Development & Regeneration at SBC says “the project isn’t just about mountain bikers, it could open up all sorts of tourism opportunities in the surrounding area.”
SEB is looking at further development in the Tweed Valley as part of a wider ‘Adventure Sports’ strategy, “focusing on activities that capitalise on the natural assets of the Borders, to help position it as one of the UK’s main locations for outdoor leisure activities such as equestrianism, mountain biking and diving, which will attract more overseas visitors as well as those from across the UK.”
It is also looking at ‘cultural events’, this could include something like Edinburgh’s Bicycle Film Festival – perhaps with a Filmmakers Festival which might produce Scottish versions of Bits 3, CKD and Kranked 6: Progression! Film Festivals across the UK recently launched The Bike Film and Animation Award “to showcase bike culture”.
‘Sustainable’ and ‘green’ tourism are very much popular notions in Governmental and Economic Development circles these days. Minister for Tourism Patricia Ferguson said recently that the aim is “to grow tourism revenues by 50 per cent, between 2005 and 2015. Our ambition is for Scotland to be the most sustainable tourism destination in Europe. We can achieve this by offering an all year round experience for visitors, and encouraging them to spend more during their stay and visit a wider variety of the country’s tourist attractions. This strategy will help to both boost the economy and lessen the impact on the environment.”
That is clearly a selection of soundbites and not a detailed policy, but gives no indication of what will actually be done to get people to visit more places AND reduce the impact on the environment.
Much more could be done to increase cycle tourism (where people actually travel by bike). It’s a pity that a safe cycle route from Edinburgh to the Forth Road Bridge isn’t more of a priority.
‘Sustainable’ travellers to the Borders will benefit from the Waverley Railway Project. This is due to run from Edinburgh to Galashiels in 2011. (Hopes for completion by 2008 hit the realities of Parliamentary and planning processes.)
In the meantime it would be good if it was easier to get to the Tweed Valley from Edinburgh by Public Transport – especially with a bike.