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This year the field visits for the Responsible Tourism in Destinations module included Haworth. The MSc students all enjoyed Haworth and have many positive and happy memories of the place.
We recognised it is a wonderful place to live and work and that there is lots of evidence of local pride and commitment to the place and its heritage. Many, actually most, towns and villages around the world have the sort of problems we have highlighted. It's difficult enough to balance the needs of any community with differing values and aspirations but add to that the tourism aspect and it becomes a complex issue.
Haworth has beauty and soul as well as the apathy and many of us were inspired sufficiently to return. Nevertheless there are some issues in Haworth which need to be addressed.
Our impressions of Haworth from a visitors perspective and perceptions of the people:
We arrived in the village with the notion of it being a Fairtrade village and were fairly disappointed. There were no signs, no explanation, no knowledge. When we asked for Fairtrade products we were met with ignorance.
In general we thought there were many interesting shops, though some of them closed. It felt like a tourist centre with no local community living there. The TripAdvisor signs and No vacancy signs underpinned this feeling.
We found the people in the shops to be polite, but quite distant. They didn't want to engage with us or telling their story, even when we approached them directly. This had a direct influence on our willingness to buy. We also felt that the people in the shop treated us differently, when they had the impression that we only came to browse. So, even though we found Haworth to be nice and charming, we would probably not spend more than half a day there.
Haworth offers a variety of produce from food to arts and we discovered that whilst there are locally produced items available it is not immediately visible where they are from. Some items included paintings, knitted crafts, jewellery, postcards, aprons, cosmetics and several books by local historians. Also available and apparently popular with many tourists are regional goods such as honey, jam, chocolate and ale. Despite being the world's first Fairtrade village it wasn't communicated whether items for sale were Fairtrade or not.
Some shopkeepers were verbally enthusiastic about the local produce they sold but it would be useful to visitors if this was communicated through signage.
Given the area's rich history and abundance of artists it could prove popular if demonstrations of traditional practices such as printing with an old style press could be demonstrated during events which would attract both local people and visitors and could generate a resurgence in an interest in traditional arts.
The allotments of Haworth were visible from the main car park, Bronte parsonage and Main Street. Considering Haworth’s fair trade status and lack of food shops there is a great opportunity to sell the allotment produce via a community growing scheme. The empty area in front of the Bronte Parsonage shop could host a Victorian market style stall with local produce for both visitors and local people. A joint venture of this kind may also help to build relationships between the village and the parsonage.
The Bronte meadow is a great asset to Haworth. The interpretation boards and seating make it inviting for visitors. However, the litter in the adjacent Bronte garden is not pleasant. The ‘flow’ of visitors can be improved by making the meadow accessible via the graveyard. A cut through point created at the graveyard interpretation sign would link to the two sites and provide an alternative route for visitors to return to the village.
Signs from the meadow to the surrounding walks and viewpoints would be advantageous. The right to roam is not common in other countries therefore it needs to be obvious and clear to foreign visitors that they can venture beyond the parsonage into the surrounding countryside.
The front garden of the Bronte Parsonage is beautifully kept by dedicated volunteers. The area on the left hand side to the Parsonage from the car park however is overgrown and untidy. The welcome sign for the museum is in this area and unfortunately its position gives a negative first impression of the parsonage. A solution would be to extend the duties of the garden volunteers to tidy this area and greatly improve the first impressions of the parsonage.
The graveyard was overgrown and untidy. Whilst this may add to the atmosphere for some visitors, the yellow signs created by the church demonstrated the current tensions between the local council and the church regarding the responsibility of maintenance. The signs distracted from the experience and the grave yard would benefit from volunteer support until a solution with the local authority is found.
Car Park & Signage
The car park created a poor first impression, please see pictures. We encountered some visitors who were lost due to the confusing signage. The following actions would greatly improve the situation;
Two street lights were on in the middle of the day, including large floodlights in the museum car park.
Rubbish was noticed in the village. However there were lots of examples of properties that were well maintained and these isolated incidents did not detract from the overall good impression of Main Street.
The Visitor Centre would benefit greatly by increasing the price of Bronte books, £2 is extremely low and visitors would happily pay up to £5-8. The additional revenue could be used to revamp the external frontage of the centre which unfortunately has lost the character and feel of the surrounding buildings.
We have been very critical – we were invited to be. We all enjoyed Haworth and have happy memoires of it. Do not be put off going to experience Haworth – it is a great place, but it could be better.