Encouraging local people and visitors to explore, enjoy and understand the area is an important aspect of the AONB Partnership’s work.
This page provides a summary of our work in this area during the 2013-14 financial year.
As well as expanding our range of publications and web-based resources, we’ve continued to run events and activities of all kinds. In June 2013 we opened Bowlees Visitor Centre – a bold venture in the current financial climate, but too good an opportunity to miss to create a new gateway centre for the AONB, to help people make the most of their visits to the area and to support the local economy.
- We held five very successful family events at Bowlees Visitor Centre with families enjoying activities as diverse as camp fire cooking, pizza making, river dipping, conker smashing and entering home-made bread and jam into a harvest competition
- We part-funded and supported the first North Pennines Walking Festival.
- We were involved in the development of the new Pennine Way and Pennine Bridleway National Trails Partnership.
Some of our achievements this year:
Bowlees Visitor Centre
- On the 21 June Helen Goodman MP officially opened Bowlees Visitor Centre in Upper Teesdale – after a £250,000 revamp with support from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the North Pennine Dales LEADER programme.
- We ran a well-attended nature-inspired family open day on the following Sunday to mark the opening of the Centre. This was the first in a series of popular special events based at Bowlees.
- When we stopped seven-days-a-week opening at the end of October 2013 we could look back on an encouraging first season.
- To celebrate ten years as a Global Geopark we ran ten events with a geological theme over summer 2013, including a celebratory walk to High Cup Nick on the exact 10th anniversary of achieving the status. Other events included geological activities for children, a geology/archaeology walk, a geology/peat walk and walks with a mining heritage theme.
- New panels interpreting geology, landscape and mining heritage were installed at Langdon Beck Hotel and High Force waterfall in Teesdale, and West Rigg Opencut in Weardale.
- A new geotrail for Allen Banks was produced and distributed.
- We reprinted the Holwick and Low Force Geotrail which is very popular with visitors, especially since the opening of Bowlees Visitor Centre.
- In partnership with the Friends of Killhope, we completed an oral history project about the area’s past fluorspar mining industry. The final report and interviews are stored in Killhope and Beamish museums and are accessible to the public. As part of the project we also ran a successful fluorspar film night in St John’s Chapel, Weardale.
The North Pennines celebrated two significant milestones in 2013: 25 years as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and 10 years as a UNESCO-endorsed European Geopark.
To mark the anniversary year we:
- Launched the Pendlebury Award – see Community and Culture section.
- Ran 25 fabulous events and activities which sought to put the special qualities of the North Pennines in the spotlight.
- Officially opened a re-vitalised Bowlees Visitor Centre – as an Upper Teesdale discovery centre and a gateway for the whole North Pennines.
Publications, social media, PR and the media
It was a busy year with much publicity being generated by the anniversary year and the opening of Bowlees Visitor Centre. Activity included:
- Production and distribution of a special anniversary- branded North Pennines Pocket Guide – the only post-arrival guide to cover the whole of the AONB.
- Issuing 35 press releases during 2013 – resulting in well over 200 stories in the print media, as well as numerous radio interviews and online stories.
- We distributed 14,000 copies of the anniversary edition of North Pennines News, via Royal Mail Door-to-Door.
- The 2014 edition of North Pennines News was produced towards the end of the financial year.
- A considerable increase in our social media reach – our @NorthPennAONB Twitter channel reached just over 31,000 followers; Facebook doubled again to just over 1,100 likes.
- New social media channels for Bowlees Visitor Centre were launched during the year, attracting over 1,000 followers on Twitter, and over 100 likes on Facebook. In addition our Director entered the ‘twittersphere’ with the launch of @NorthPennChief.
Our work with schools included:
- Developing an education programme based at Bowlees Visitor Centre which has so far enabled 240 young people to learn about the unique geology and flora and fauna of Upper Teesdale.
- Working in Partnership with Natural England to develop and deliver an education programme that allows young people to explore the area from Low Force to High Force and on to Cow Green Reservoir and Cauldron Snout.
- Working through the AONB Partnership’s Nectarworks project we have engaged with 172 children in five schools across the North Pennines: Rookhope, Forest-of-Teesdale, Whitfield, Brough and Stanhope Barrington Primary Schools. The children have:
- Discovered and celebrated the Harvest Festival and the importance of bumblebees and flowers in the production of our own food.
- Learnt that bumblebees are threatened by the loss of wildflower habitats and made an action plan to help. With our support they are creating bumblebee-friendly gardens within their school grounds.
- Learnt about the fascinating natural history of bumblebees and their importance in food webs through activities, games, drama and songs linked to the curriculum.
- Enjoyed visits to school by local bee-keepers to learn about honey bees.
- Assisting four students from Sunderland University’s Community Music Degree to undertake placements in Rookhope and Forest-in-Teesdale Schools. They worked with the children to create songs about bumblebees which were performed in front of an appreciative audience at the Nectarworks Open Meeting.