Trout and watercress tempt top travel writers to Winchester

Nineteen members of the British Guild of Travel Writers were in Winchester for a three-day fact-finding tour of the city and district, hosted by the Discover Winchester media relations consortium in partnership with Winchester City Council's tourism service.

Each year, the Guild - which comprises 200 travel media professionals, including writers, editors, photographers and broadcasters - selects a destination for its annual study trip to familiarise the members with the area and to help them source new story ideas for future articles.

Of the 19 taking part in the Winchester visit, the group had confirmed commissions from publications as diverse as The Spectator and Italian Vogue, all helping to spread the word on Winchester's charms to prospective visitors the world over.

The Guild's visit was organised by Discover Winchester, a network of tourism businesses in the Winchester district, supported by Winchester City Council and Hampshire County Council, which is dedicated to raising the national profile of Winchester as a visitor destination. The group has raised several million pounds worth of coverage for the district since it was founded nine years ago.

Highlights of the packed itinerary included a watercress-themed visit to Alresford - now a firm favourite with foodie magazines, thanks to the growing popularity of the humble salad leaf which grows in abundance around the town - and a morning's trout fishing on the River Itchen followed by lunch at The Trout Inn in Itchen Abbas.

Winchester City Council's tourism marketing manager Karen Brazier said: "Quality local produce such as trout and watercress is playing an increasingly important part in attracting visitors to the area, many of whom are keen to eat good food close to its place of origin. We wanted to provide the Guild with an opportunity to sample two of the Winchester district's most distinctive specialities."

The journalists were also able to see Winchester's wonderful heritage and cultural attractions during their stay, enjoying visits to the cathedral, Great Hall and college, a tour of the city's public art and an open-air theatre performance in the Inner Close. Their visit ended with a trip to Marwell Zoological Park on a vintage bus provided by the Friends of King Alfred's Buses.

Speaking at the welcome reception held for the Guild at Winchester's City Museum, Councillor George Beckett, leader of Winchester City Council and portfolio holder for tourism and economic development, said he was delighted to welcome the British Guild of Travel Writers to Winchester.

"Their visit has given us a wonderful opportunity to showcase the best that our district has to offer, which we hope will inspire lots of new articles in the year ahead. Ongoing media coverage is highly valuable to all involved in the tourism industry as it helps to keep Winchester at the forefront of visitors' minds," he added.

Commenting on behalf of the Guild, chair Mary Anne Evans described it as "a truly inspired press trip" with each member getting much more out of the visit than they had anticipated. She expected a lot of coverage in the forthcoming weeks and months.