Britain is home to a wealth of ecclesiastical buildings rich in history and full of beauty and trails can help vistors and tourists to discover and explore some of the exciting and fascinating parish churches in rural areas.
Raising the profile of churches and chapels in rural areas benefits the economy of the villages in which they are located whilst helping those buildings to become more sustainable.
Church Tourism Programmes offer tourists and visitors the opportunity to travel between churches and to learn about and enjoy their history, culture and heritage.
A variety of trails of different length and demand is recommended so that visitors can plan a route suitable for the fit and active, children and the less active.
Cycle trails should be planned to avoid conflict between cyclists and walkers and cycle security points should be provided, in addition to car parking where practical.
Trails particularly accessible (but not exclusive) for those with special needs should be provided and highlighted although access for all wherever possible is a priority
The following represents a few examples of how to approach the development of a church trail but is not intended to be an exhaustive list.
In order to improve engagement and inclusivity interpretation should place the churches, their architecture, artefacts, memorials etc into their historical and cultural context – crossing cultures, crossing time etc.
Rural Church Trail Website
A website can provide information on the trail themes and stories, locations and routs and downloadable resources. Access to resources such as children's trail leaflets, interpretative maps and events programmes can also be made available
Church based circular walks and heritage trails
Walking activities can be developed themed for different audiences including children and families, curious minds based trails, nature trails and churchyard explorers.
Walking and Cycling trails
Short and long routes can link two or more churches using footpaths and cycle routes. Each trail would be designed to be walked either way and include links to public transport, pubs and restaurants and sites of interest.
Volunteer guided tours of participating churches and churchyards
Churches can offer guided tours at set times led by volunteers during weekend, holiday periods or linked to events.
Themed events linking participating churches such as art festivals, family activities, The Big Draw, religious festivals and saints' days.
Architecture and the built environment
Trails linked to architecture and building conservation. Conservation in action and archaeology projects that can be observed or participated in at participating churches.
Activities linked to exploring churchyards including nature trails, ecological surveys, famous monuments or grave stone inscription trails linked to local and national history and culture
Listening posts at strategic locations providing real authentic voices of local people telling their stories about the social and cultural importance of the church.
Rubbing plaques at each church and a recording booklet. Collect a rubbing from each church to complete a full set.
There are many other possible developments within a trail project that can provide activity and interest for the visitor which could include geo-caching, storytelling sessions, coach tours and photographic and art competitions. Particularly, special photo and painting viewpoints may be featured throughout the project.
Other aspects and activities that should be taken into account include:
- Social networking for promoting trails and sites eg Flickr, Facebook etc
- Smart Phone technology – e.g. mobile downloads/apps
- GPS walking technology
- View points/Points of interest /Photo opportunities
- Picnic spots
- Timed trails
For more information on developing church trails and indeed trails for other buildings with themes please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with 'Trails' in the subject line