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Dalesbridge, Austwick

Working miracles in sustainable tourism

Jon Beavan – the name rhymes with heaven – is, appropriately enough, something of a miracle worker when it comes to sustainable tourism.

He has been running the Dalesbridge Centre at Austwick, near Settle, for almost 20 years. In that time he has turned what used to be a hospital for infectious diseases into a thriving business offering bed and breakfast, bunkhouse and campsite accommodation for visitors who love outdoor pursuits such as mountaineering, walking, potholing and mountain biking.

In 2007 he invited a representative of the Green Tourism Business Scheme to see what he had done and give advice about how he could qualify for the scheme.

After they had looked around the Victorian buildings, he was told he had no chance of qualifying for even a bronze award. Jon thought this unfair.

“This has always been a ‘green’ business and, although the buildings are not ideal for achieving high energy efficiency, I thought we ought to and could qualify under the scheme,” he says.

Jon introduced some changes and in 2008 he achieved his first miracle- a bronze award. Two years later came an even greater miracle, a gold award.

Green action plans

How has he done it? “Through looking at absolutely everything we do from the top down. All the staff get involved in drawing up green policies and an annual green action plans.”

These plans have achieved a host of changes, some big, some small. “We’ve done all sorts of things from replacing inefficient oil boilers with the most efficient, modern oil boilers possible to putting out bird feeders in the winter!”

Green Initiatives include a new toilet block with light sensors, low flush lavatories and paper towels made from 100 per cent recycled paper; sensors in the bunkhouses that detect movement and automatically turn up the heating; bathroom cleaners, cleaning products from Environmental Supplies and replacing conventional light bulbs with energy saving ones.

Practical and commercially viable

“We always look at green alternatives when we can to replace things but they have to be practical and make commercial sense,” he says.

Sometimes ideas fail the practicality test. “We were keen to put an array of solar panels on a particular south-facing roof but a structural engineer told us the roof wasn’t strong enough to take them.”

Another failure was 100 per cent recycled lavatory paper. “It tore too easily and there was an awful lot of waste. We found the practical alternative was 50 per cent recycled paper, which is fine.”

But there have been many more successes than failures. Jon has made a great effort to encourage his guests to arrive by public transport (even offering a discount to those who do) or to leave their cars at the centre and explore the area by bike or on foot. He has created a secure bike store – much appreciated by his guests – and produced leaflets on a series of walks that begin and end at Dalesbridge.

Encouraging feedback

Encouragingly, it seems that his guests welcome his green approach. Feedback from a visitors survey showed that 30 per cent felt it extremely important that, when choosing somewhere to stay, the place was environmentally friendly with good green credentials. Some 24 per cent said it was very important and 29 per cent, important. Only 17 per cent said it was not very important and no- one said it was not important at all.

If you believe in the green creed, you could say that miracle-working Jon is on the side of the angels. He would simply say that he’s on the side of the local community, devoting up to 50 days a year to voluntary work. He chairs two advisory groups for the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, is a member of the Yorkshire Dales Society’s Council of Management and is Chairman of Bowland Experience, a not-for-profit company promoting sustainable tourism in the area.

For further information contact Jon Beavan on 015242 51021 or visit

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