Press Release Autumn 2019

For immediate release 29 October 2019

                     

 Church Tourism gets big funding boost from Heritage Fund Grant

The Resilient Heritage Fund of the National Lottery has awarded a grant of more than £200,000 to two groups that could change the face of Church Tourism and its contributions to the tourism industry generally. The project could be a new model for church tourism nationwide, making historic buildings more sustainable and bringing something extra to the tourism industry across the country.

Called “Virtuous Circles” – Sustainable Tourism for Sustainable Churches, the scheme will be launched at a special event in Leominster Priory at 2pm on 5th November.

This is really exciting for Herefordshire and Shropshire Churches Tourism Groups which have more than 200 church members committed to welcoming visitors to the two counties,” said Wendy Coombey, Chair of the Herefordshire Group and a member of the executive of the Shropshire Group. “If the trials which form a major part of the plans are successful, it could make a massive change to Church Tourism locally across Herefordshire and Shropshire, where tourism is a vital part of the rural economy. It will also be the blueprint for a roll-out nationwide.”

Churches in the counties of Herefordshire and Shropshire are to benefit from a National Lottery Heritage Fund grant of £215,000. The award has been given to Herefordshire Churches Tourism Group to work with their partners in the bid. The money will be spent over the next two years in the region. The project, called “Virtuous Circles” will include input from the National Churches Trust, the Churches Conservation Trust and Herefordshire Historic Churches Trust.

The plan has two distinct features. The first will see a number of member churches in each county, being selected to help develop and assess a new Churches Tourism Handbook.

The development of a branding and marketing action plan, promoting themed bookable tourism experiences in the two counties will be promoted not only regionally and nationally but to overseas markets as well,” said Jenny Beard, who will Chair the Tourism Development Steering Group and has a life history in tourism and food. “It will also see the growth of themed trails such as veteran trees, poets, musicians and authors and themes yet to be proposed by our member churches. We are blessed with a rich heritage of hidden gems, historic and contemporary customs and remarkable churches set in stunning landscapes for any and all of these.”

The second element of the project will see an accommodation pod fitted in a church which is still open and with church services on the first Sunday of every month. The luxury space will provide self catering facilities in a rural church, a very unusual and different place to sleep! St Mary Magdalene Church in the tiny village of Turnastone in Herefordshire has volunteered to be the trail blazer!

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