Why tourism matters to Lancashire

Tourism businesses in the Forest of Bowland are working together to boost tourism

Tourism businesses in the Forest of Bowland are working together to boost tourism - Credit: Marketing Lancashire

Tourism businesses in Bowland are working together to reap the rewards of a boost in domestic holidays

Rural businesses in the Forest of Bowland are working together to rebuild the visitor economy as demand for domestic holidays in countryside settings looks set to increase.

Led by Champion Bowland – a charity that provides accessible small grants for local projects which benefit the environment, local communities and visitors – the Forest of Bowland Sustainable Tourism Network has launched a new destination marketing website designed to attract active families and adventurous couples to explore the beautiful Forest of Bowland.

Champion Bowland has provided the seed capital to launch the site, with future funding to come from stakeholder businesses who have signed up to participate. The website includes information on accommodation, outdoor activities, courses and experiences and the Forest of Bowland’s outstanding food and drink offer. discoverbowland.uk

Pedal power

Darwen’s family-run Cotton Town Bikes has launched a mobile repair service and can now offer a no contact service possible for vulnerable customers.

The bicycle repair and cycle training business was founded in 2014 by then firefighter Lee Cameron, who said: ‘Closing down would have meant the local community and keyworkers in particular would have had to travel out of town for bicycle maintenance and repair.

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‘We also partnered with Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service and offered free maintenance and repair for keyworkers from both Blackburn and Darwen Community Fire Stations. And we donated a bike to a local care worker and serviced bikes for free and provided free care packs from one of their suppliers to keyworkers in Blackburn and Darwen.’

Cotton Town Bikes has now taken on its first full time employee and apprentice. cottontown.bike

A chip of the owd block

The newest attraction at the Owd Barn, at Spencer’s Farm near Ormskirk, is The Spud Shed; a mixture of high-spec retail units, bringing together a range of local businesses under one roof.

The farm’s former potato store is now a stylish new home to eight businesses, following a year-long transformation designed by LMP architects of nearby Whittle-le -Woods. The new residents include yoga, spa, physiotherapy and hair dressing businesses, as well as adult and children’s clothing boutiques, a florist and creative web design company.

Retail manager Helen Charlesworth said: ‘The retail units have always been part of the long-term plan and 2020 was the year we chose to make it happen. Though Covid could so easily have set us back, we’ve managed to complete the project and fill all the spaces and we’re delighted to have finally opened.

‘We’ve created a well-being barn, quite unintentionally, and we’re looking forward to creating packages and offers that make people feel relaxed and truly pampered whenever they visit. The businesses involved complement what we do at the Owd Barn and each other perfectly.’

Clare de Sousa is owner of Vitality Spa, one of the first to secure a large unit in the Spud Shed. She established Vitality Spa over 25 years ago and after many successful years at Wrightington Country Club was looking for a change.

‘Last October I went to meet with Helen and, looking beyond the mountain of potatoes, there was a clear and exciting vision of an attractive new facility for the area and for the future of Vitality Spa, she said. ‘My clients enjoy high quality professional treatments and retail products, in a relaxed and friendly environment. I’m looking forward to welcoming them to our new spa and I know they’ll love being here as much as I do.’


Still hopeful

Garstang-based art fair organisers Hopeful & Glorious have not been able to stage any in-person events this year but have revamped their online presence to support artists and makers from across the north.

Founder Heather Chapman-Fox said: ‘It’s a really tough climate for makers selling their work right now and we’re committed to raising the profile of talented creatives in Lancashire and to supporting them to find new ways to reach customers.

“November would usually be our Winter Art Fair at Lytham Hall with bustling crowds and a fantastic atmosphere. In an uncertain period we didn’t just want to do this online, we wanted to use the opportunity of digital to create something engaging.’

Over 50 makers will be showcased to a new and potentially worldwide audience, with demonstrations, workshops and meet the maker sessions to accompany the showcase of Lancashire handmade products. And makers can offer a gift-wrapping service and send straight to loved ones – a definite plus in the current situation.

The Hopeful & Glorious Winter Art Fair starts at 10am Friday November 20th and runs until 5pm on Sunday 22nd. hopefulandglorious.co.uk

Bouncing back

A Lancaster-based bathroom business that was forced to close at the start of lockdown has bounced back and are predicting a big year ahead.

OEP Building Services, which began trading in 2001, initially provided bathroom pods and furniture to the student accommodation market through its manufacturing facility in Poland. More recently they moved into the private housing sector and in 2019 the company moved its manufacturing facility to the UK creating 60 jobs.

But the company lost a month’s revenue during March when they were forced to close at the beginning of the lockdown. They then received a £400,000 NPIF loan backed by the Coronavirus Business Interruption Scheme (CBILS) from NPIF – FW Capital Debt Finance, which is part of the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund.

OEP is run by directors Nick Moore, David Cowperthwaite and Iain Crabtree. The company employs 140 staff and turnover last year reached over £14.7m.

David said: ‘Property developers have moved away from building bathrooms onsite to installing pre-fabricated bathroom pods. These pods need to be of a very high standard, so we moved manufacturing from Poland back to the UK so we have better quality control.

‘Access to the CBILS scheme has been very important to help get the business into a good position so that we can continue to grow. Despite closing for a month, we’ve been flat out since we got back and are now back on track. We’ve taken on 30 new staff and are on course for revenue to stay the same as last year and a predicted of £22m in 2021.’


Student success

James Eid, a 19-year-old entrepreneur and student at Lancaster University, founded Signature Masks after he struggled to find affordable face coverings to visit his grandmother who suffers from Bechet’s disease. The masks are made in Britain and sell for £3.99 for ten and James now plans to supply face coverings at discounted rates to schools. signaturemasks.co.uk

A step up

Young people in Blackburn with Darwen who have lost jobs and training placements as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic are to be offered support through a new youth hub partnership called Step Up.

Step Up is for 16 to 24-year-olds who are currently not in employment. It aims to give young people an opportunity to benefit from the support of skilled Youth Employability Work Coaches from the jobcentre to avoid them becoming the long term unemployed of the future.

A partnership between Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council, the Department for Work & Pensions and Blackburn Youth Zone, Step Up responds to the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on young people’s employment and training.

Outreach sessions will take place online as well as in person at Blackburn Youth Zone in Jubilee Street and in community venues. Support is also available for employers to encourage them to take on young staff, including schemes that fund part time positions, and bonus payments for taking on furloughed workers. blackburn.gov.uk/helphub

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