[C]umbria Classic Coaches and Stainmore Railway Company provided a unique taste of heritage transport from a bygone era for a group of Visitor Centre staff from the Yorkshire Dales this week.
Last year saw the official launch of the new extension of the Yorkshire Dales National Park which now covers a large area of Upper Eden around Kirkby Stephen and Orton.
Eden District Council’s Tourism Team invited 16 Visitor Centre staff from the Yorkshire Dales Centres this week to discover the Upper Eden area and find out what is on offer for visitors exploring this beautiful corner of Cumbria.
Tourism is one of Eden’s main industries. In 2016, Eden attracted 4.77 million tourism visits (visitor numbers up 3% on 2015), with a massive £309.41 million being generated within the local economy through visitor and tourism business expenditure (an increase of 3% on 2015) (Source: STEAM). Now that the Yorkshire Dales National Park extends into Eden it is hoped more people will be encouraged to travel to Eden and explore what it has to offer.
The group were given the chance to tour part of the Upper Eden area on board a heritage bus from Ravenstonedale based Cumbria Classic Coaches. The day started with a tour around the Stainmore Railway Company (SRC) based at Kirkby Stephen East Railway Station.
Mike Thompson from the Stainmore Railway Company, said: “We are absolutely delighted to have the opportunity to play host to the Yorkshire Dales Visitor Centre staff on the first leg of their familiarisation tour. We very much hope that the day is a great success and also provides a tremendous marketing opportunity for the many delights that the Upper Eden Valley can offer to visitors to the Yorkshire Dales National Park.”
Volunteers have been restoring the site since 1997 which has been open to the public since 2011. The station opened in 1862 as the route from Darlington to Cumbria and closed to passengers in 1962. The site became a bobbin factory until the early 1990s and SRC have developed the site over the last 20 years.
The site is now a heritage railway open to visitors at weekends, rated as the number one tourist attraction in Kirkby Stephen by TripAdvisor. Trains run on a few weekends per year, but the site has a museum retail outlet and is open at weekends.
From there the group were taken through picturesque countryside to the village of Orton where they were shown round Kennedy’s Chocolate Factory who also kindly hosted a buffet lunch. Visitor Centre staff also had the time to explore the village which is now home to one of the Yorkshire Dales National Park’s area offices.
Traveling to Appleby in Westmorland people were shown part of the area’s renowned limestone pavement on Orton Scar. In Appleby the group looked around various historic sites including the Moot Hall, Appleby Castle, Lady Anne’s Alms-houses, St Lawrence’s Church and enjoyed the beautiful riverside stroll beside the River Eden.
The day ended with a short trip on the Settle to Carlisle railway line from Appleby in Westmorland to Kirkby Stephen made possible by the Settle to Carlisle Railway Development Partnership. The railway line is a main link from Yorkshire Dales into the Eden Valley and creates a range of opportunities for people to travel and explore the areas around Appleby and Kirkby Stephen.
Tracey Lambert, National Park Centre Manager of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority’s four visitor centres and gift shops, said: “Thank you to Eden District Council for the invitation. We were treated to the best of Eden and we’re looking forward to telling people all about it. We see a total of 400,000 people a year in our visitor centres. We’re in a much better place now to advise people where to go in Eden, including the parts of it in the National Park. We look forward to hosting the return visit.”
Eden District Council’s tourism team will be working closely with colleagues in the Yorkshire Dales to develop cross border marketing initiatives and strengthen tourism alliances to boost visitor numbers and tourism-related employment in the area.
Jessica Goodfellow, Joint Tourism Manager at Eden District Council, said: “We are delighted to be working alongside the Yorkshire Dales National Park Tourism Team. Together we look forward to promoting this beautiful area and encouraging more visitors to enjoy this new part of the Dales National Park. This provides a great business opportunity for our operators who can happily say they are located between two of the country’s best known National Parks.”
Following the successful visit, Yorkshire Dales Visitors Centres are looking forward to hosting a familiarisation day for Eden Tourist Information Centre Staff later on this year.