September 4, 2012 | Community News
The world’s largest human landform has received a royal seal approval after being officially opened by Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal.
Princess Anne came to north east England to visit Northumberlandia, a unique reclining female figure designed by renowned artist Charles Jencks which is more than seven times the size of a football pitch and taller than an eight-storey building at its highest point.
The event was hosted by Viscount Ridley, on whose Blagdon Estate, to the west of Cramlington in Northumberland, the landform resides, and Harry Banks OBE, chairman and chief executive at The Banks Group.
Blagdon and Banks have jointly invested around £3m in the creation of Northumberlandia and its adjacent water bodies, which have taken two and a half years to construct by Banks using 1.5 million tonnes of carefully selected stone, clay and soil extracted from the adjacent Shotton surface mine.
Northumberlandia provides an iconic gateway feature to South East of Northumberland located close to the A1, East Coast Rail Line and Newcastle Airport.
It has been designed in line with Banks’ “restoration first” approach, where extra land not needed for coal mining has been provided by the Blagdon Estate to deliver a lasting positive legacy for both the local area and the wider region at an early stage in the development of the mine, rather than waiting until the end of operations.
It takes around 20 minutes to walk the three-quarter mile-long outer path around the landform. It contains more than two and a half miles of surfaced paths, as well as over one and a half miles of grass paths.
Northumberlandia will initially be open to the public between noon and 4pm on Wednesday 5 and Saturday 8 September, and information on subsequent opening times is available on the new www.northumberlandia.com website.
Bob Downer, chief executive of Blagdon Estate, says: “We are extremely honoured to have been able to welcome The Princess Royal to Northumberlandia, and to have had her officially open this unique artwork which now graces the Northumberland countryside.
“The Estate has always tried to play a proactive role in enhancing the local community in a wide range of ways, and the opportunities that this scheme will create will bring many benefits to local people in terms of leisure, nature conservation, tourism and public health.”
Katie Perkin, communications manager at the Banks Group, adds: “This project was envisaged as an outstanding artistic landmark which would stand alongside the region’s other main tourist attractions, as well as providing high quality leisure facilities for use by the local community and visitors to the area for many decades to come, and we are thrilled with the way in which it has been realised.
“Northumberlandia was designed to provide a lasting legacy for the area, part of which will be through the increased number of visitors that the landform brings to both the local area and the wider north east, and the additional tourism revenues that this will undoubtedly bring to our region.”
Charles Jencks, the world-renowned artist who designed Northumberlandia, says: “Being given a wonderful site, the entry through a magical dark wood, and 1.5 million tonnes of rock, clay and soil by the Blagdon Estate and the Banks Group provided a rare opportunity to create a unique landscape, one that relates to the distant hills, and gives signposts many art-works in the vicinity.
“Northumberlandia is a landmark, especially for the adjacent town of Cramlington, and an excellent example of how business, in the right situation, can provide communal art at no expense to the public.
“We’ve created a landscape and public amenity that will be explored and enjoyed in different ways – as a group of undulating pathways and waterways to contemplate in quiet settings; as a place for the family to picnic on a warm day; and as a journey of discovery with several hidden meanings that will change as the site grows and evolves.”
Northumberlandia forms the centrepiece of a 47-acre public park being built on land donated by the Estate that will be managed by independent charity The Land Trust as an amenity for the local community and an attraction for visitors to the region.
Euan Hall, chief executive of the Land Trust, says: “We are very excited to be involved in securing the long-term future of Northumberlandia. Although this is a truly breathtaking piece of public art, it subtly blends with the natural landscape and crucially gives people a new park that they can enjoy. Banks and Blagdon Estate have to be given a lot of credit for having the foresight to create such a fantastic legacy for the local area.”
For further information about the project, please visit www.northumberlandia.com.