Written by Mary Powell of Lincolnshire County Council
Covid-19 has been really tough in so many different ways. Businesses in the hospitality sector have really suffered, their whole reason for being is to be hospitable, welcoming and sharing, the one thing they couldn't do. Working out how to operate post lock-down has taken much of our time, but we've also been looking to the future and on how we can operate tourism better – greener, smarter and more joined up.
I can't think of an industry that is so inter-connected as the world of tourism: accommodation businesses need great attractions to send their guests to, attractions want their visitors to stay over, the longer their visit the more time to soak up the experience. Visitors need places to stay and visit, but they also need good signage, cleanliness and decent roads, places to park, a warm welcome, plenty of information, the chance to enjoy the countryside, the list goes on. Sometimes when everything grinds to a halt it's the chance to think about how to do things better. Creating that virtuous circle of a great visitor economy is a challenge, but one that we're taking very seriously in Lincolnshire.
We think Lincolnshire is a great place to enjoy the outdoors – walking and cycling, bird watching in our many nature reserves or just enjoying those wide sandy beaches. England's coastal path in Lincolnshire has some completed sections and others that are being worked on. When we have built off-road cycle paths such as Water Rail Way and Spa Trail they have been incredibly popular with both residents and visitors, catering safely for all ability levels. But it would be good to develop the network further and for more connections between the paths. In fact wouldn't it be great to arrive as a visitor, park up and not use the car so much? This will take some joined-up thinking but surely the way we need to go.
Our wonderful heritage has been closed, but again more thoughts about areas we should explore. I've always felt that it's about telling the stories, the people who built it, their motivations, their background and families. Behind every magnificent façade is always a story of people and their ups and downs, their pride, wealth and dynastic ambitions, good luck and bad. The way that you tell those stories is many and varied, a really good guide can bring everything alive, a well written guide book prolongs the memory or the bonus of coming across an interesting interpretation panel as you're out on a walk.
There are new tech solutions for telling stories too. I am interested in the digitisation of our historic collections as a way of widening access. This isn't always done well and there is no doubt that it is technically challenging to do it beautifully, whilst bringing its stories alive. With Claire Birch at Doddington Hall I have been looking at the digitisation of their wonderful ceramic collection, neither of us has great IT skills so as we resolve one problem we usually come up against a new one.
The collection of porcelain was all collected by one family member Edwin Jarvis (1816-1876), vicar of Hackthorn. He particularly sought out curios, unusual one-off designs, samples and so on. There is Worcester and Derby porcelain together with Chinese and European china as well as pottery from the short-lived company at Torksey. Edwin made an exceptionally beautiful catalogue of the collection with exquisite hand painted illustrations together with fascinating notes and comments in beautiful and very legible hand writing. Wouldn't it be great to be able to see every page of the catalogue and to look at the china from every angle? The catalogue has now been photographed and we are now planning the same for every item of porcelain, pending the arrival of a vital bit of kit. It will be to the highest standard, with the ability to see each item in 365⁰ zooming onto maker's marks and the pattern detail. Having done that further IT challenges follow as to how we then make it accessible – one step at a time and a very steep but worthwhile learning curve!