Eco-friendly tourism

Although it is England’s smallest National Park at 57,000 hectares, the New Forest prides itself on being the greenest and, with all the chat about carbon footprints and doing your bit for the environment, we headed down to Brockenhurst, the Forest’s largest settlement, to find out how one goes about having a low carbon holiday.

Getting there

Together, the National Park Authority, the tourism industry and the local community are striving to make the New Forest a car-free destination in order to reduce the impact that visitors have on the area and have, therefore, devised a number of car-free discounts and incentives.

Twelve of the top New Forest hotels, guesthouses and B&Bs, for example, are offering up to half price room rates, two-for-the-price-of-one dinners, spa massages, free transport to and from railway stations and other such benefits if guests leave their car at home and travel by public transport to the area.

In fact, getting to Brockenhurst by train couldn’t be easier as it’s is the most well-connected village in the UK, with 310 trains stopping a day from as far afield as Scotland. Waterloo to Brockenhurst is just 90 minutes.

What to do

There is lots to do in the New Forest if, like most of our readers, you enjoy an active, outdoorsy life. If they do bring them, visitors are highly encouraged to escape the confines of their cars and head out on foot, bicycle or horseback and, with 94,000 acres of open forest on the doorstep, 193 miles of off-road trails and some fabulous views, there is plenty of opportunity to do so.

The community

One of the great things about the New Forest is how the various different accommodation providers, attractions and retailers have joined forces to try to make a difference. Brockenhurst is particularly interesting as the village is pioneering a new project to try and reduce its carbon footprint by 50%.

Seven local businesses have gone even further by joining the Green Tourism Business Scheme; a comprehensive ‘green accreditation’ initiative that champions sustainable tourism in the UK and promotes some of the greenest tourism businesses around.

Where to stay

Once of the businesses signed up to the Green Tourism Business Scheme is a charming B&B in Brockenhurst called the Cottage Lodge, which has either won, or been short-listed for, a number of environmental awards, such as the Sustainable Tourism Award.

They picked up at the Tourism South East 2007 Tourism ExSEllence Awards.

Cottage Lodge.

They kindly let us stay a night when we were in the area and we had a good chat with Christina Simons, the owner, about what steps they are taking to reduce their waste and pollution, and offer tourists a low carbon holiday. Their theory is that a combination of little changes makes a big difference.

Therefore:

– All the ingredients for their guests’ cooked breakfast come from the New Forest to lower their food mileage, or they use Fair Trade products when no local product is available.

– Rooms are cleaned with environmentally friendly products, the building’s insulation has been improved as much as possible, water is heated using an energy-efficient boiler, their energy is bought from renewable resources and they use low energy light bulbs.

– In support of the car-free plan, and as an incentive to get their guests thinking about their own carbon footprint, they offer tea and cakes to anyone who arrives by train or parks their car for 24 hours.

Take a look at the website for more information about The Cottage Lodge.