9c. Tourism(November 20, 2009)
AN IMPORTANT part of our town's future is the creation of national and international interest in visiting Warminster not just merely passing it with speed on the by-pass.
Our task involves obtaining maximum added value from the many important attractions that surround us.
The town is very well-known being associated with Longleat whose passport ticket system means that visitors often come back twice being unable to complete their experience in one go.
On the second visit what is being done with the half day they probably have left over?
The town has many things of interest but who knows about them? The history is there for all to see if someone has the eyes to show visitors.
The town also has a real opportunity to put itself on the national and international map especially to those already attracted to the world heritage sites at Bath and Stonehenge.
A visit to Stonehenge is not a day long experience so where could they go next?
Warminster has a major attribute in its location that should be another priority.
Any family staying in the Warminster could quite happily plan a fortnight of day trips while staying in relatively cheap accommodation.
Within about one hour are Longleat, Bath, Salisbury, Stonehenge, Cheddar, Wells, Avebury, The New Forest, Lacock, several south coast seaside towns and for those with interests Fleet Air Arm Museum, East Somerset Railway, Chew Valley Lakes are just some on offer.
One of the ways forward is to offer unique attractions that holiday makers will not find anywhere else combined with making the best of the undoubted attractions that the town can boast.
National Archaeolgy Centre
The most exciting major project that needs the town's wholehearted support is a strong case being made for the establishment of the National Archaelogy Centre based in the town with hands on experience out on Salisbury Plain and other neighbouring sites.
Within a few miles of the town is the highest concentration of sites of archaeological importance in England and the interest among the public has been massively stirred by television programmes like 'Time Team.
Several under-used buildings in the town are all being looked at in our vision and would make a good home complete with spaces for class rooms and exhibits.
As well as Warminster historically being a market town it also has had many Maltings including Chinns Court. A unique attraction could be a Museum of Malting.
Bring History to Life
At the heart of Warminster is the town hall and St. Lawrence Chapel both with unique features. The town hall has a well in its dungeon and the church has a clock that chimes but no clock face!
Why? Let tourists discover the answer and many other things about the town.
The setting up of guided walks giving an insight into bygone days and local history could enthral tourists especially those from the US who do not have our history to get excited about.
How many other examples would it take to make a decision to drop into Warminster an event to talk about when they get home.
The town has a volunteer run museum with very helpful members and has the opportunity at the Athenaeum to expand the cultural interest in the town.
There is a need to ensure that Warminster's history is also re-enacted as a tourist attraction. As an example its part in the English Civil War could become a regular event picking several days during the summer.
The attraction of more modern history is amply demonstrated by the annual vintage bus running days which hundreds flock to from outside the town.
One town in Hampshire runs a very successful Hampshire Potato Day every January - we could do the same here for Wiltshire Potato Day.
Far more events in general need to be encouraged and key to this is the town council which needs to scrap some of its committees and spending and set up a leisure and tourism committee.
Just over 20 years ago a biennial Warminster Festival was launched to provide a week long cultural showcase for the town. Its modest beginnings gave a taste of what could be achieved but now is the time to take a major step forward.
We have already in our vision described the need for a town economic development officer and we believe that as part of their role they should have the task of producing a more professional bi-annual Warminster Festival.
One each year would be an improved continuation of the current concept with the other week being devoted to the youth with the aim of not just entertaining us locally but attracting tourists.
All across the country places gain a reputation for the being 'home' to the a sport or activity. Nationally it is tennis at Wimbeldon or snooker at the Crucible in Sheffield.
The town council must stimulate an interest in Warminster by sponsoring and attracting other sponsors to a regional and national Skittles competition hosted by the many alleys in our town.
Why don't we make the town the national home to skittles?
They should also recognise that a similar approach could be taken with a regional Pool invitation competition (a member of the England team lives in Warrminster) and snooker at the club in the town.
This type of imaginative approach will put the town on the map and make those who are in the area aware of what the town can offer.
There is a real beauty of Warminster and its setting. No matter where one lives in the town it is within easy walking distance of wonderful countryside. The same is true of tourists who should be encouraged to stop (for free) in our car parks.
In time at Granada Services we would make the case for a free bus service in to the town.
There is a real need for investment of time and money in a town trail. The time would be given by those we ask to describe their favourite walks.
The money would be invested in creating the trail encircling the town with easy access and exit points to pop back in for refreshment.
It would be provided complete with picnic points and activity points for youngsters along the way.
In the town itself there is the wonderful Lakeside Park and Smallbrook Nature Reserve. The private sector already provides the very attractive Hunters Moon in Henford Marsh and the West Wilts Golf Club.
Leisure and Culture
Are there opportunities to create yet more activities for visitors to do?
We believe that the Athenaeum holds a key and it should no longer be allowed to struggle for the funding to become a vibrant cultural centre to rival guild halls across the country which have been converted for this use.
The sad fact is that during most days and the evenings there is almost nothing for a family to do which does not involve a visit to a pub or the sports centre.
There is very little space left to add to recreational facilities in the town to complement activities for holiday makers like the tennis courts and sports centre so what is available should be used imaginatively.
The town council should seriously consider taking a lead immediately before the opportunity is lost. They should identify the opportunties and plan to use them creatively.
The new Warminster website we mentioned in the first section of our vision should be used to promote places to stay in the town.
The slope that leads up from the town park to the football club should be considered for either a pitch and putt golf course or a ski slope.
The land that will be de-contaminated at the end of Furnax Lane should be considered for a go-kart arena.
These are activities that could be municipally run which would not only attract visitors but benefit the townspeople as well.
The revival in interest in going to the cinema has been well-documented. Any town that wants to be serious about providing for the needs of tourists needs to tackle this issue seriously.
We have a vision of Warminster putting itself on the tourist map as a major tourism attraction in its own right step by increasing step.
Promoted and published by Steve Dancey of 21 Newport, Warminster, and Paul Macdonald, of 144 Boreham Field, Warminster.