A North Pennines market town is set to impress visitors with a collection of digital experiences being launched this Spring.
The North Pennines AONB Partnership has commissioned a series of stories and interactive trails which people can experience using their mobile phones, thanks to funding from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). People will be able to step back in time to learn about local history and uncover secret stories about the area. There are three apps which are being launched in Alston today (Tuesday 16 April), and will be available to the public to use. More information on how to use each of the apps can be obtained from Alston library.
Alston’s old corn mill, High Mill, still houses a 30ft waterwheel dating from 1817. The imposing building has been closed for many years, and is inaccessible to the public. Using virtual reality, the North Pennines AONB Partnership has produced a tour which will strip away the walls of the mill to reveal the building as it would have looked in the past. Visitors can pick up a folding cardboard viewer from the library in which you insert your mobile phone to get the full virtual reality experience. There are also a limited number of headsets available which have the tour preloaded.
An augmented reality app, called ‘Ghostlines’, will bring historic characters to life in locations with which they were associated. Through truly cutting-edge technology, people from the past will appear as ghostly living figures on the viewer’s phone. In Alston, the app will bring to life Joseph Pearson, the town’s postman from 1849 to 1868, revealing events from his diary. He recalls stories of families leaving for Australia and America, local entertainments, deaths and crimes. Other characters coming to life across the North Pennines can be seen at Nenthead Mines, Ninebanks Youth Hostel and Allenheads Blacksmith’s Shop.
The Alston School Family Explorer app is a trail developed in partnership with the Flinty Fell ICT class of 10 and 11 year olds at the Alston Moor Federation School. The students have worked with a digital mentor through the whole process of app development from creating personas representing their audience and identifying local stories, right through to audio scripts and logo design. The app will provide location-triggered visitor trails around Alston. The first self-guided trail takes users around the centre of town and the second includes ghost stories and explores the outside of the town. The students have developed the full range of content for the app including historic stories, quizzes, films and audio.
Tim Crump, Digital Interpretation Officer for the North Pennines AONB Partnership, said: “The three digital experiences are designed to immerse visitors and local people in the hidden histories of the North Pennines.
“We are extremely grateful to the Alston community for working with us to share the stories of their town. Local businesses, individuals and the school have really embraced the project and helped us to create a really rich experience which reveals elements of the area’s history which have been hidden until now.”
Chris Woodley-Stewart, Director of the North Pennines AONB Partnership, said: “This is the first time we have been able to use this kind of technology to help people explore the North Pennines. The results will be a real asset for Alston and the surrounding area, and we hope people will enjoy discovering more about this special place.”
The digital experiences were produced as part of a Department for Culture Media and Sport programme to test the potential of 5G connectivity to bring benefits to rural areas in the future.