Public urged to reconnect with local landscapes via groundbreaking new sustainable tourism initiative

Published Friday 14 October 2011

A MAJOR new initiative urging people to reconnect with their local landscapes has been launched.

‘Our Land’ unites and celebrates the nine protected landscapes of South East England – the first time such a collaboration has been created – in a new central tourism website: (hosted by The promotion of sustainable tourism businesses that have a passion and commitment to their local landscapes and communities lies at the core of the site.

More than a third of the South East is officially classified as Protected Landscape – this consists of the New Forest National Park and South Downs National Park, and seven Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB): the Chilterns, Cotswolds, High Weald, Isle of Wight, Kent Downs, North Wessex Downs, and the Surrey Hills.

Employment in tourism in protected landscapes is around double the national average at almost 20%, and in some cases is much higher – on the Isle of Wight it accounts for 41%. Our Land aims to boost the vital revenue generated through tourism, whilst ensuring the long-term protection of the land by encouraging the public to recognise and rejoice in these diverse landscapes.

Visitors can use the new website to find and book their next holiday, browsing specific regions and accommodation preferences or by viewing suggested itineraries themed around seasons and activities, as well as reading about the sights, sounds and smells that make the different landscapes so distinct.

Social media elements allow people to share their experiences and to ask questions of the area to a panel of local experts; including historians, conservationists and walking and cycling experts.

Local businesses signing up to the scheme will benefit from free or discounted inclusion on the website, support developing their interaction with the landscape, and the promotional weight of the initiative. To qualify as partners, businesses must agree to the ‘Our Land Promise’ to offer authentic experiences that celebrate the cultural and natural history of the region, and they must demonstrate to visitors their commitment to the environment.

Supporters and partners

TV presenter Kate Humble is championing the new initiative and said:“In the UK we have some of the world’s most beautiful landscapes on our doorstep. Not only are these wonderful places to enjoy Britain’s nature at its best, they are also packed full of interesting stories of thousands of years of human life. There is a powerful, resurgent interest in re-discovering natural and cultural Britain and I congratulate the Our Land partners in aiming to capitalise on this in a responsible and sustainable way.”

New Forest National Park Chief Executive Alison Barnes said: “Much of the local economy depends on visitors, with 13.5 million visitor days each year to the New Forest. The attention to sustainable tourism that Our Land will give will help ensure that many more day visits are converted to overnight stays, while ensuring that the special qualities which attract people in the first place – the landscape, wildlife, culture and tranquillity - are conserved and enhanced. The Our Land initiative is vital in offering a unique type of truly sustainable tourism which will help the New Forest National Park thrive and prosper.”

James Berresford, CEO of Visit England, said: “Within the Strategic Framework for English Tourism the Rural Tourism Action Plan aims to significantly increase the economic benefits of tourism to local communities, and the Wise Growth Action Plan embeds the principles of balancing growth with sustainability across the industry. Our Land is a very good example of putting these strategic plans in to action. In time I hope it will develop beyond the South East.”

Justin Francis, MD,, said: “We have some of the most diverse landscapes on our doorstep but too many are unaware of the riches that can be less than an hour away by bus, bike or train. Our aim is to reconnect people that live in the South East with our shared heritage to ensure it is enjoyed, whilst being conserved for centuries to come.”

As well as working with local tourism businesses, Our Land will collaborate with membership organisations, transport providers and the media to promote the range of visitor attractions on offer in the protected landscapes.

Our Land has been made possible thanks to a £1m grant from the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE), to be spent over the next 2.5 years, after which it is intended the model will continue to prosper commercially and be available as a template for other protected landscapes across the country. Our Land is being managed by the South East Protected Landscapes (SEPL) forum, made up of representatives of the nine landscapes, and is being given web, marketing and brand support by the project’s private partner, sustainable tourism leader,

- Ends -

Photo Captions:

Our Land launch 1: (left to right) Rob Fairbanks (Surrey Hills AONB Director); Chris Reynolds (Independent Chairman of Kent Downs AONB); Jeremy Hunt MP (Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport); TV presenter Kate Humble; Nick Johannsen (Kent Downs AONB Director); Justin Francis (Managing Director of

Our Land launch 2: TV Presenter Kate Humble launches the Our Land project encouraging sustainable tourism.

For further information please contact:

General media enquiries:
Adam Stones or Georgie Howlett at Forster – 0207 403 2230,,

New Forest National Park Authority:
Hilary Makin, Communications Manager
Tel: 01590 646608 Mob: 07850143528

Notes to editors:

About Our Land

  • Our Land has been made possible thanks to £1million funding from the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) which is administered through Defra.
  • Our Land is managed by the South East Protected Landscapes (SEPL) Forum – made up of representatives from each of the region’s nine protected landscapes – with web support from
  • Our Land is constituted through a Memorandum of Agreement with Surrey County Council, which also acts as the project’s accountable body.
  • Around 36% of the South East region is designated Protected Landscape, the primary purpose of which is the conservation and enhancement of the natural beauty of the landscape.
  •, the world’s leading company for marketing green and sustainable tourism, is the project’s private sector partner responsible for commercial strategy, branding and marketing, including creating and managing the Our Land web platform. has committed to running the project beyond the funding period.
  • was set up in 2001 and has generated £80million of bookings for small, rural and specialist tourism businesses. Every business that appears on Our Land will also be listed for free on

About the New Forest National Park Authority

Protect - Enjoy - Prosper

The New Forest National Park Authority’s statutory purposes are to:

  • Conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the Park - Protect
  • Promote opportunities for understanding and enjoyment of its special qualities – Enjoy.

We also have a duty to:

  • Seek to foster the social and economic well-being of local communities within the Park – Prosper.

The New Forest National Park was designated in March 2005. Its unique landscape has been shaped over the centuries by grazing ponies, cattle and pigs which roam free. Majestic woodlands, rare heathland and a spectacular coastline provide fabulous opportunities for quiet recreation, enjoyment and discovery.

More articles in the news archive.

New Forest National Park Authority news feed


image-fade-right image-fade-left