The Isle of Wight has been, for many years, keen to show the array of local food and fine ales that our Island farmers and Breweries produce. Always with the key objective of sustaining our line with increased passenger numbers and car free tourism in mind, the CRP (Community Rail Partnership) felt that if we combined the two as a promotion, we could support our Islands railway; the local economy; tourism; the environment and community.
With just one development officer (and a vast amount of other projects that needed to be delivered for the two partnerships she manages), it was vital that volunteers were engaged to help cover a wide radius, visiting the pubs and talking to the owners and managers, rather than cold calling on the telephone.
This was achieved with some very willing CRP volunteers, all who knew landlords in their own towns along the corridor.
In total we were able to engage with 22 pubs, restaurants and attractions, all who sold local food and real ale and were willing to pay the £40 to be on the guide and provide an offer, valid with a rail/bus ticket.
The pubs were also happy to engage in the monitoring and evaluation, therefore measuring the success of the project. This was to simply make a note of offer take up.
The breweries were also approached, and promoted, and paid £200 to be a part of the scheme and all worked well together for press releases promoting the scheme. With all on board, we were able to proceed to leaflet design concentrated to attract Islanders, and visitors close enough off the Island in Hampshire; Dorset; Wiltshire; West Sussex; Surrey and Berkshire, who wanted to come for either a weekend or longer, using public transport, to do so.
With an added incentive for visitors, we also incorporated an Island calendar and one of our maps showing events through the summer and on the shoulder of the season for visitors to make an informed decision as to when they came and to attract people to use the railway and network throughout the year.
The CRP then secured funding for distribution of 30,000 leaflets on the mainland to 53 mainland tourist information centres, within a 100 mile radius of Lymington, Southampton and Portsmouth. The take up was slow at first, due to deadlines having to be extended to the end of June, but picked up through the summer. It continued through to September, mainly with Bestival and the Cycling Festival, which we know from figures increased ridership on the mainland and Island Line railway, benefiting our railway and Island with increased visitors to the region.
Further success was unexpected support from the New Forest National Park Authority who were really impressed by the Islands guide, enough to fund, through LSTF, a guide promoting New Forest local produce and real ale for the Brockenhurst Lymington Line for 2015 that also included Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight.
Rail Ale Trail
- Leaflet with map from Ryde to Ventnor produced by the Isle of Wight Community Rail Partnership in partnership with Island Brewers, Island Line, Wightlink, Hovertravel and Southern vectis and selected pubs along the route who wanted to take part with offers
- To promote the Island and what you can do and see with an events diary to for people to plan when they want to come and stay and taste the local ale and good local food
- To promote car free tourism to get to the Island on Hover and Wightlink and Island Line Railway and Southern Vectis when people are here.
- To promote the Islands Brewers; Goddards, Island Ales and Yates, pubs that feature their year round ales between Ryde and Shanklin and the route up to Ventnor
- Being distributed on the Island at visitor information points, mainland to 53 TIC and mainline railways stations
Next Ale guide to incorporate the Island as and will stretch across and round the Solent as part of a CAMRA (Campaign for real Ale project) to attract visitors to the region by public transport
There is a photo opportunity at 3 p.m. on Thursday 10th July when the 3 brewers will be at the head of Island Line at Pier Head to launch the Rail Ale Trail
To know more about the Islands CRP please visit www.isleofwightcrp.co.uk or like us on Face book for up to date news and projects
Rail development officer
Isle of Wight Community rail partnership