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Published by the Society in the Ripon Gazette, 2nd July 2010
A new cycleway into Ripon offers opportunities for the city, says David Winpenny

‘It was roses, roses, all the way,
With myrtle mixed in my path like mad.
The house-roofs seemed to heave and sway,
The church-spires flamed, such flags they had,
A year ago on this very day!’

Does this opening verse of Robert Browning’s poem ‘The Patriot’ give a clue as to what it will be like for cross-country cyclists entering Ripon when ‘The Way of the Roses’ cycleway from Morecambe to Bridlington is finally completed? Will there be cheering in the streets and a warm welcome for the intrepid pedallers as they can finally ride the ‘missing link’ – the section of the route that joins the western section, which now stops at Appletreewick, with the eastern leg, from Bishop Monkton to Bridlington?

The sustainable transport charity Sustrans has been working closely with North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) to set the route for the The Way of the Roses. It uses quiet roads and lanes as much as possible, and allows cyclists to see come of the best of the countryside. Coming from the west coast the trail passes through Settle and Pateley Bridge. As it approaches Ripon the route goes through the Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal World Heritage Site, and east of the city it takes them through York, Pocklington and Driffield to the coast.

The original draft of the route gave only a half-hearted cheer for Ripon; cyclists coming from the west were directed from Bishopton Bridge down Mallorie Park Drive and then out of the city along Low Skellgate (not an ideal route for cyclists – or for motorists!). This route missed the Market Square and the Cathedral totally. Sustrans and NYCC were aware of this drawback and asked Ripon Civic Society and the Greater Ripon Improvement Partnership to suggest an alternative. A new route has been suggested that will take cyclists into the city along Studley Road, through the Square, past the cathedral and then out via Bondgate. If they are travelling west a slightly amended route, taking account of the city’s one-way streets, will bring them through the city. It seems likely that these suggestions will be accepted.

And because even the most intrepid or energetic cyclist is unlikely to want to complete the 180 miles in one go, they’ll want stop overnight somewhere along the route. Ripon is almost exactly halfway along the route, so it is the obvious place for them to do so. In the last few years restaurants and cafes have burgeoned in the city, so we can offer them a decent quality of food when they arrive. But what about accommodation?

In the main cyclists are probably not looking for four of five star hotels but for good-quality bed and breakfast places. Ripon already has a handful of such establishments – but do we need to provide more? Of course, to open a new bed and breakfast place entirely on the expectation of an endless supply of cyclists whizzing from east and west into the city is probably not sensible. It is interesting, though, to look at what happens when other long distance routes open to tourists.

Walkers who undertake long distance routes – the Cleveland Way, the Pennine Way, the Hadrian’s Wall Walk, for example – have certainly had an impact on the tourism industry in their areas, and people who offer bed and breakfast along the route have certainly benefitted from their custom. News of good places to stop will quickly spread, not only by word of mouth but through organisations that promote the activity (the Long Distance Walkers Association and the Cyclists Touring Club immediately come to mind, but they are only two of the myriad such groups). Their newsletters and websites will soon telegraph the best overnight stops along a route.

So ‘The Way of the Roses’ is an opportunity that Ripon should grasp. We need to make sure that we are geared up for the cyclists, because they represent part of the city’s future. If we can offer them good accommodation, others – non-cycling tourists of all types – will be attracted to the city, too.

This is not to suggest that it is only bed and breakfast places that will influence visitor choices. There is certainly a need in the city for another quality hotel. Notice the phraseology of the last sentence, please; the key words are ‘quality’ and ‘in the city’.

Promoters – and others equally misguided – might argue that a budget hotel on the AI at a venue that may be known as ‘Ripon Services’ is the panacea for the city’s tourism industry. But this cannot be sustained as an argument. How many times have you visited the nearest town to one of those convenient, if noisy and anonymous, chain hotels that mushroom near our main arterial roads? Exactly – rarely, if ever. If you are travelling the length of the country for a purpose, you are unlikely to deviate from the motorway just for a name. Perhaps before we support such a move we should ask the promoters of such hotels for figures: just what percentage of people who stay at their Travelodge or their Premier Inn (to name just two) are actually known to have visited anywhere else in the vicinity?

No, we need good quality (which doesn’t necessarily equate to expensive) hotels as close to the centre as is feasible. If they were supplemented by the existing bed and breakfast places and some new ones, we could really offer tourists a good deal in Ripon. Then it might really be ‘roses, roses all the way’ for cyclists, other visitors – and for the city itself.

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