The Northumberlandia visitor centre officially opens

March 11, 2014 | Brenkley News

A new visitor centre and café were officially opened at top North East attraction Northumberlandia – the Lady of the North, in Cramlington. The newly constructed building was opened on Friday 7th March by Councillor Paul Kelly of Bywell and will be open to the public at the end of March.

The visitor centre has been built thanks to funding secured by The Land Trust, the national charity managing Northumberlandia, from the Banks Community Fund and Defra’s RDPE Rural Economy Grant, totalling £242,000. After many months of hard work by all the partners and contractors, this event celebrated the completion of the project and officially opened the visitor centre.

Euan Hall, Chief Executive of the Land Trust comments, “The Park had over 100,000 visitors in its first year, and therefore having a visitor centre and café available at this major tourist attraction during its second year, will really improve the overall visitor experience and enable even more people to visit the region. We are very grateful to the Banks Community Fund and Defra’s Rural Economy Grant for funding this work.”

The opening event was a success with a hive of activity taking place, including local school children from Burnside Primary School demonstrating wildlife activities, Northumberland Scottish Pipes and Drums performing and refreshments provided by Azure Charitable Enterprises, who will manage the café onsite.

In his speech, Councillor Kelly highlighted how this new addition to the iconic site will offer significant value to the visitor experience and really boost the local economy, commenting that “It will provide another vital source of income for the site, allowing for even more improvements to be made in the future.”

Mark Dowdall, environment and community director at The Banks Group said “As one of the largest employers in the area, we are delighted to have been able to further support Northumberlandia and look forward to seeing the continued contribution that this project is making to the local economy. This wonderful new facility will add significant value to the visitor experience. When we first developed our plans for Northumberlandia, we set out to deliver a new gateway feature for Northumberland with a unique and spectacular publicly accessible land sculpture as the centrepiece, providing a really special place for the local community and attracting new visitors to the region. The Lady of the North and the number of visitors to the park are already meeting our initial expectations and I hope that the new visitor centre will attract even more people to the region,”

Rural Affairs Minister, Dan Rogerson said, “Our investment in the Northumberlandia visitor centre has strengthened the rural economy by creating jobs. It will also encourage more people to celebrate one of the area’s beautiful landmarks.”

As well as being a visitor centre and café for visitors to the site, it will also be available to hire, for a range of community activities, such as evening meetings, educational courses and a base for guided walks and talks.  This will enable the park to deliver even more benefit to the local community.

Peter Elliott OBE, chief executive of Azure Charitable Enterprises, said, “Having been involved with Northumberlandia personally for a very long time, I am thrilled to be involved with the visitor centre and café. Given our mission, this venture will provide or secure jobs for people with disabilities – and provide additional income in furtherance of our valuable work.”

Northumberlandia is a unique landform sculpture of a reclining lady, designed by the world renowned architect and landscape designer, Charles Jencks and made possible by the adjacent Shotton Surface Mine. Made of 1.5 million tonnes of rock, clay and soil, she is 100 feet high, a quarter of a mile long and set in a 46 acre community park with free public access. She cost £3 million to construct, which was privately funded by The Banks Group and Blagdon Estate and is now under the stewardship of open space management charity, The Land Trust and managed of their behalf by Northumberland Wildlife Trust. The visitor centre was designed and built by local firms JDDK Architects and Clearspace Buildings.

To find out more about this project, click here

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