Outdoor Adventure - where to stay and where to go!
In 2013 we were appointed official promotion partner for the National Trails in England and Wales. Our aim is to bring these amazing trails into the lives of lots more people, not just the long distance walkers and riders, but everyone who wants a top quality experience in the finest landscapes.http://www.nationaltrail.co.uk/
We asked people what they wanted from a new website - they all said better mapping, so that's what we provided in partnership with the Ordnance Survey.
The distance calculator quickly shows people planning a visit to a National Trail how long their walk or ride is, and creates a gradient profile.
Businesses can manage their own accommodation listing, reducing the work load for trail staff and providing an up-to-date service to trail visitors.
We wanted to use the best maps, so we are using OS maps. The maps include the ever-popular 1:25,000 and 1:50,000 scale so familiar to walkers.
It's not just the maps that are good though. We've designed the site so that almost all the additional information is located on the map. The map is the central place to start planning a visit, you can look at photos, see where attractions are nearby, look for circular walks, or the nearest station. You can even see the best place to have lunch, or a well-earned drink at the end of the day.
Cyclists and horse-riders can choose to only see services that specifically cater for their needs, including vets, farriers, cycle repair shops, and water points.
Traditionally National Trails have been described and promoted in sections that represent a day's walk. This is okay for people planning to complete the trail over several days, but not so helpful for those seeking a short walk. It also can lead to problems finding accommodation at the end of each section. When we designed the new website we knew we wanted to promote the trails to families and day walkers as well as long distance users, so we decided to move away from pre-defined sections. That left us needing to find a way for people to see how far their walk or ride was, so we built the distance calculator.
It works by allowing the user to draw the line of their planned route, clicking points along the way. It isn't restricted to following the line of the trail, so can be used to see how far away accommodation or services are, or to plan a circular walk or ride. Once complete a single click creates a gradient profile of the route to provide more information.
It is important to show trail visitors where they can find accommodation, but keeping the details up to date was always a problem for trail staff. The new website hands control to the businesses themselves, allowing them to keep their entry up to date. The open text field allows them to describe the service they offer in their own terms, making it much easier for trail users to decide where to stay.
Each entry shows when it was last updated, making it easier to judge how up to date the information is.
A standard listing is free, but accommodation providers can choose to upgrade for a small annual fee to allow them to add images, links to trip advisor and have some additional promotion through social media.
A whole range of information can be added including photos, points of interest, services (shops, cafes etc) and accommodation.
Anyone can share their favourite places along or close to a trail, or post their photos. They can also add pubs and restaurants they've visited. Business owners can use the site to promote their services. This gives the site a richness of content that simply isn't possible any other way, and provides free publicity to the many small businesses offering services to walkers and riders.
Equestrians and cyclists have the ability to add notes to help other riders, such as water points or busy road crossings.
The whole website has been designed to minimise the amount of extra work it generates for us at Walk Unlimited and for trail managers. The report a problem tool is designed to make the process of alerting trail managers to anything wrong on their trails very straightforward.
The public often report minor problems encountered in the countryside, the hardest task for the trail manager is usually working out exactly where the problem is. To simplify this process the tool is map-based - users simply click on the correct point on the map and fill out a short form. They can attach photos and can choose whether to be alerted when the problem is resolved.
The system keeps a record of how quickly issues have been responded to and when they were resolved, allowing staff to demonstrate their effectiveness.
Social media provides the perfect medium to share up to date information of interest to trail visitors. People are choosing to share their expereiences of walking or riding the routes, and their photos. We keep an eye out for any news or events that we think will interest our audience, everything from major diversions or changes to the routes, to sightings of dolphins from the coast path.
Using social media allows us to reach new audiences, and to share lots more information than we could with the website alone.
People visiting or living near the trails have lots of useful information to share. We've designed the site to allow them to add it to the map.
The map-based problem reporting tool simplifies the process of alerting trail managers to issues on the trail.
The website is supported by Facebook and Twitter accounts, providing an opportunity to share trail users' experiences and to promote events and activities along the trails.