Wednesday, 11 April 2012

60 SECOND INTERVIEW: Martin Gershon

LOVE the idea of riding a bike in the beautiful West Dorset countryside, but deterred by how much effort it would take to pedal up those hills? Well now there’s a solution as Martin Gershon has recently introduced electric bikes tours to Marshwood Trails, his outdoor activities company, one of the first in the country to do so. And if cycling isn’t your thing then you could try one of his guided walks or innovative treasure hunts. Martin lives in Morecombelake where he has been for the last three years.

HOW did Marshwood Trails come into being? 
I’m very much an outdoor person and when offered voluntary redundancy last year from Natural England, the government’s conservation agency, I thought here’s my chance to try to make a living from something I have a real passion for. I love showing people the countryside and really enjoy walking and cycling so I thought, ‘can I combine these things into a business?’ And that is exactly what I’ve been doing since last summer.

WHAT kinds of tours do you offer?
I provide half day and full day guided walking and electric bike tours. Our walking tours take in favourites like Golden Cap and less well known places off the beaten track that are lovely just the same. There are stops along the way to try local food or drink, and take in the wonderful views. It’s about giving people a real taste of this special area. We also offer treasure hunts where participants follow a trail that takes them to hidden objects which are located using a handheld GPS device. It’s particularly good for children because it turns what they think of as a boring old walk into an adventure.

WHAT'S unique about the way you do it?
It’s the personal touch that having a guide who knows the area brings. We have developed some great routes with loads of points of interest on them. We can help people identify any wildlife seen on the day and explain the history of the areas we visit. People can book places on a ‘scheduled’ tour and we can also help groups design their own day out such as a special family occasion or corporate event. These can include a delicious picnic at a viewpoint or a quaint country pub on the route.

HOW big is your patch?
It stretches from the tip of Portland through Abbotsbury to Lyme Regis and inland we have trips around Bridport and Beaminster, and in Thomas Hardy country. We also venture into East Devon with some delightful routes around Beer and Branscombe. 

SO WHERE is West Dorset’s best kept secret?
If I have to name one place, then it would probably be Marshwood Vale, which combines fascinating historical places like Whitchurch Canonicorum with the stunning views you get from Pilsden Pen all the way to the sea at Lyme Bay. If you want to find out any more secret places, you’ll have to book a place on one of the tours.

WHO are your tours aimed at?
We provide something to suit all interests. To help people choose the right tour we always give an indication of what to expect and then ensure the pace suits the whole group. Children have to be at least 14-year-olds to go out on the electric bikes. However, they are very welcome on the walks and treasure hunts if accompanied by an adult and the same goes for well behaved dogs too.

WHAT is the most exciting part of this venture for you?
I love walking in this area and the treasure hunts are great fun but it is incredibly exciting how electric bikes can transform cycling in this lovely but hilly area, opening it up to people who would never previously consider having a go. I love the smile you see on people’s faces when they get to the top of the hill without being totally out of breath. And at the end of the day, you feel great rather than exhausted which is certainly a bonus.  

WHICH three famous people would you like to take on one of your tours?
I would like to take Thomas Hardy as he was a cycling enthusiast and I’d be interested to find out what he thought of the electric bikes. Chris Packham the presenter from Springwatch would provide lots of insights into the local natural history and Eric Morecombe, would keep us laughing all day whatever the weather.

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