"I am delighted to inform you that Her Majesty The Queen has been graciously pleased to approve the Prime Minister’s recommendation that a Queen’s Award for Enterprise in the Innovation category should this year be conferred upon your business unit."
It’s not every day you open a letter like that one so it’s natural Science in Sport’s Tim Lawson is chuffed:
"The award was specifically for GO Gel, but if you think about it we’ve been going on about things like recovery drinks for years before the more commercial companies figured they should try and do something similar."
Established in 1993, Country Lanes received the Award for developing a UK cycling holidays business that delivers the benefits of tourism without the damaging effects of road traffic congestion, pollution and overcrowding of historic attractions, natural beauty spots and quiet villages, said Canadian Susan Achmatowicz, creator of Country Lanes, and a winner of many previous business and ‘women in enterprises’ awards.
"What we’ve demonstrated at Country Lanes is that leisure cycling as part of a short break holiday can deliver the obvious health benefits but also significant and positive benefits to local communities, economies and the environment if developed using a sustainable approach," said Achmatowicz.
Country Lanes has cycle hire centres based at rural railway stations in the Cotswolds, New Forest and Lake District, enabling customers to reach the start of their holiday by means other than private car, allowing access to non-motorists and encouraging car-free tourism.
The company estimates 85 percent of customers travel to the start of their holiday by rail and explore by bicycle eliminating 1m car miles annually and reducing CO2 emissions by 328 tonnes each year.
But it’s not always been smooth pedalling for Country Lanes. The business lost the majority of its staff to redundancy due to foot and mouth during 2001 and when drafting her business recovery strategy Achmatowicz, a former City banker, decided that rather than spend on recruiting and training new employees it made sense to develop a business model using local owner-managers.
"The franchising solution rose out of the ashes of foot and mouth disease and led to successful business turnaround during 2003. Empowering and supporting local franchisees to run their own businesses under the Country Lanes brand is enabling our sustainable tourism offer to develop more rapidly. This Queen’s Award adds a competitive edge that will boost our UK expansion strategy and help us attract investors who’d like to profit from our success . ‘
Country Lanes is based in Fordingbridge, Hampshire. Achmatowicz was recently appointed a member of the New Forest National Park Authority Board which came into being on 1st April.