On the 28th March the combined Yr 12 and 13 Geography class enjoyed the second of their compulsory fieldwork sessions, this time in the urban environment of Lyme Regis.
The aim of the visit was to look at the reasons for and the effects of rebranding on Lyme Regis. Matt, our expert tutor from Leeson House, explained that Lyme Regis had been experiencing problems faced by many tourist resorts in the South West i.e. low seasonal wages, retirees and second home owners and the out migration of young people. Amongst the strategies being employed by Dorset CC and local people was the Jurassic Coast name and the use of food as an attraction.
After an interesting introductory talk, students spent two hours exploring the town in their groups. Their specific objectives included looking at local businesses to see if and how they had incorporated the Jurassic Coast and SLOW concepts into their business advertising, the type and cost of local housing, the effects of the narrow streets on accessibility and the old faithful, the questionnaire. There was an opportunity to try some of the local businesses’ fare but Costa won out in this respect. The temptation of crazy golf proved too much for some of the party but at least they boosted local business on what was an overcast but, thankfully, rain free day.
Upon meeting up we were shown how coastal defences had been changed to not only protect property but to enable enhanced access to fossil bearing cliffs to the east in order to attract tourists during the winter, when storms erode the cliffs revealing fresh finds. We were also given interesting information on the increase in turnover of a local business since the advent of the Jurassic Coast and River Cottage initiatives.
It was to River Cottage HQ that we then proceeded to finish our day. River Cottage was originally the brainchild of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall in the 1990s. Made famous through the Channel 4 series, it made the use of organic and local natural products more famous. He could be regarded as the architect of the SLOW idea of food, Seasonal, Local, Organic and Wild, elements of which have been pounced on by other Lyme Regis area businesses since. Dan the farm manager gave students an informative tour which highlighted the differences between organic farming and factory farming. Pigs, chicks, cattle and sheep were all present with the day old lambs being the star turn. We were privileged to see inside the kitchens and dining hall where paying guests would normally be looking at £100 plus for a course or a meal. Strangely, there is no set menu as the chefs react to the availability of produce rather than placing a definite order with a wholesaler and undermining their aims. The farm exists without chemical herbicides or pesticides and animals are treated medicinally in a reactionary rather than precautionary way. Amongst the information gained was that a chicken will take up to 4 times as long to reach the table on an organic farm as in a barn. Mums may be interested in asking the student participants about making your own bacon which Dan recommended as being both cheaper and tastier than eating supermarket sourced produce.
So was the rebranding successful? The answer, as with so many aspects of geography, lies in the grey area; partly. What is unequivocal though is that everyone enjoyed the day and went away equipped with the information needed to tackle a rebranding case study. Now all we need is the right exam question to come up!
Many thanks to Peter Morton and Seth Cowie for their support on the trip.