New horizons for tourism and wellbeing as summer turns to autumn – Susan Briggs

DO you remember the sense of anticipation at the start of the school year? The new pencil case, friends, promise of fun discoveries.

The sun setting over Ilkley Moor as summer turns to autumn. Photo: Bruce Rollinson.

It’s been decades since my school days yet September still triggers thoughts of fresh starts and positive changes.

After a troubled year, optimistic thoughts seem a bit too… optimistic, but youthful confidence is much needed. Children learn and develop by taking small steps forward every day. Adults lack that sense of easy momentum.

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We stick to our ‘normal’, and become bogged-down with weighty thoughts and doubts. We dismiss ‘childish’ ideas, yet maybe they can teach us about being more open to new experiences? No huge leaps forward, just edging into a different way of thinking.

Autumn colours bring a fresh perspective, like this steam train in North Yorkshire, and present an opportunity for tourism, writes Susan Briggs.

Covid has already taught some interesting lessons. We’ve adapted to different versions of daily life. Lockdown demonstrated the value of time with friends and family. We stopped taking things for granted. We appreciated key workers, neighbours and simple pleasures. Nature and wildlife were suddenly mainstream topics of conversation.

The discoveries have continued. Thanks to Rishi’s Discount Dishes, many have savoured new flavours. It’s been good to see some independent shops and outdoor markets flourishing, with ever greater value placed on all things local.

The internet has enriched in unexpected ways. My 80-year-old mother continued her Tai Chi lessons by Zoom and then went on to learn such skills as ‘invisible mending for antique kimonos’. She doesn’t have any kimonos, but as the popularity of the Repair Shop programme has shown, many welcome an antidote to throwaway culture. Countless talents have been developed. Sour dough starters are still bubbling away.

Working from home, and not travelling far for holidays has been a challenge for some. Holiday cottages in rural and coastal Yorkshire are suddenly hot property. Travel writers are scrambling to refresh their knowledge of UK geography and ‘hidden’ destinations, after years of focusing on exotic long haul holidays. Daily walks have led to noticing and appreciating small, familiar details, perhaps taking a different route off the beaten track from time to time.

Autumn colours at Thorp Perrow Arboretum near Bedale, North Yorkshire. Photo: Charlotte Graham / CAG Photography Ltd.

So what happens now? As we edge into the ‘back end’, do we prepare for hibernation and our usual winter diet of comfort food and TV? If we do, maybe we’ve learnt nothing after all. Slipping back into familiar patterns of post-summer retreat effectively means sleep-walking through six months of our life every year.

If nothing else, Covid offered the chance to learn we’re adaptable beings, that life can be tough but we can get quite good at finding small everyday pleasures to spur us on. What about the wildlife we noticed? It’s still there. The beaches, the hills? Still there. The beauty of nature? Still there. Are we? When we close our autumn curtains, we miss out on a whole world beyond our home. This isn’t just about feeling more alive during the winter months. It could change the Yorkshire economy. So much activity just stops when the temperature drops.

Yet, in even colder climates, tourism and social lives continue. Scandinavians are particularly good at offering different ways to relax and adventure, even with under four hours of sunlight. Many UK workers still have outstanding leave to take. Few feel they’ve really had chance to make the most of their free time this year. Tourism and hospitality businesses are struggling and need support.

We have a real chance this year to extend the Yorkshire tourism season, and to help the economy. A small mindset shift can bring broader changes. If you can work from home, how about renting a cottage or staying in a B&B for a couple of weeks so you can work then experience a different view and activities during downtime? A change of scene can really boost creativity and productivity. Enjoying a day trip or short break in Yorkshire out of season has other benefits.

If you’ve enjoyed walking and other outdoor activities, there are endless opportunities to continue – without the crowds. With fewer leaves on the trees, views vary and expand. It’s easier to notice the changes in nature, to pick out details and spot wildlife.

Some places become even more attractive and atmospheric during misty autumn days. Photographers can capture stunning sunsets without having to stay up late. Dogs are allowed on more beaches out of season. Watching a winter storm or waves lapping is incredibly bracing and refreshing. Pubs and cafes become even cosier. Towns take on a different, more intriguing feel.

VisitEngland’s autumn campaign invites us to ‘Escape the Everyday’. It encourages more discovery, and suggests we treat ourselves at the same time as supporting local businesses. The New Economics Foundation suggests that for every £10 you spend in a shop or business that uses local suppliers, an additional £50 is generated for the local economy through the multiplier effect. There could be some incredible benefits for mental health and the economy if we all take small steps forward, change our habits and explore Yorkshire year round.

Perhaps we can all have a new start in September?

Susan Briggs is a tourism consultant from Masham. She tweets via 

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