Linking People to the Landscape – The Benefits of Sustainable Travel in Countryside Recreation & Tourism

First published in 2009 this document, describes the benefits of sustainable travel in countryside recreation and tourism. It is based upon a business plan, originally written by Claire Sparkes for the “Widen the Choice” Project involving the partnership of Natural England, the RSPB and the National Trust. This document was adapted by Chris Wood of Transplan.


This paper addresses the impact of travel for recreational purposes particularly in rural areas, the economic, health and social benefits of sustainable recreational travel and the changing nature of travel. It draws upon experiences mainly from the east of England.

It raises some interesting points about:-

The car – “The car is the main way people get to the countryside, and the only way many
believe it is possible. In fact, according to the 2001 census , a quarter of households nationwide has no access to a car, rising to nearly half in inner urban areas. In the East of England, 19.8% of households have no access to a car. In the cities of Norwich and Cambridge, 31.8% and 35.5% respectively of households have no access to a car, and in central urban areas, particularly those close to railway stations, the figures are higher – ward-level figures of 40.7% (Southtown and Cobholm ward, Great Yarmouth), 41.5% (Thorpe Hamlet ward, Norwich), 45.4% (Market
ward, Cambridge) and 48.2% (Harbour ward, Lowestoft) are common.

(The website of the Office of National Statistics can now provide more up to date data including that from the 2011 census)

key barriers to enhancing access by public transport – A report for the Scottish Executive by Steer Davies Gleave (2008) explored the role of transport in participation in cultural activity throughout Scotland. The research identified some key barriers to enhancing access by public transport – barriers instantly recognisable across the rest of Britain:

  • A lack of information – including lack of information provision on the part of those generating travel [attractions].
  • A lack of motivation to promote and achieve access by public transport.
  • [A need to] relate travel behaviour to other objectives (from climate change to parking
  • A lack of know-how on the part of attractions.
  • A lack of clarity over who is responsible for promoting public transport access.
  • Under-utilisation of community transport and demand-responsive transport solutions.
  • Transport issues not being raised at a sufficiently early stage.
  • A lack of knowledge-sharing on successful initiatives or ideas.
  • A lack of integrated entry and travel ticketing.
  • A lack of consideration of the visitor’s end-to-end journey.

Ideas to help policy makers encourage more sustainable behaviour from the consumer – A paper by the New Economics Foundation (2005) described a range of ideas to help policy
makers encourage more sustainable behaviour from the consumer. It noted several aspects of the way people make decisions, which could be applicable when trying to persuade people to use public transport:-

  • People watch the behaviour of other people and often copy it. They are encouraged to continue doing things when they feel that other people approve of what they are doing.
  • Habits are also very important. People do many things, such as using their car, without consciously thinking about what they are doing. The problem for all policy makers who are trying to get people to reduce their car use is that habits are very hard to break.
  • People’s values, motivations and personal commitments are very important in determining their behaviour. They want their actions to be in line with their values. Often though, if they find their action is not in line with their values, they will change their values to fit their actions, not the other way around.
  • People are bad at making calculations relating to their decision-making. Recent experiences and worry about unlikely events have a much greater impact than detailed calculations.
  • In order really to change behaviour, people need to feel actively involved and effective in making those changes. Just giving incentives is not enough. However, once changes have been made through active processes, the behaviour change is much more likely to be permanent.


This paper is worth looking at again in the context of the “Feasibility Study into Public Transportation Options for widening access to the Ouse Washes” particularly as many of the points that it makes are still very relevant to the Ouse Washes area of East Anglia today in 2016.

Peter Bates