New Northumberland discovery and learning centre
Good news for Northumberland National Park Authority and YHA – the organisations have been given initial support from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for a joint landscape discovery centre project called The Sill.
They have achieved a first-round pass with development funding of £399,200. This will the organisations move ahead with plans to apply for a grant of £6,303,500 later.
The Sill will be a centre of national significance. It will focus on inspirational discovery and learning about the landscape and this will be facilitated through the visitor’s experience of the Northumberland National Park.
Northumberland National Park is made up of more than 1000 square kilometres from Hadrian’s Wall to the Cheviot Hills on the border with Scotland. It contains the country’s cleanest river systems and some of the darkest skies in Europe. It is also home to the most tranquil surroundings as well as rare flora and fauna.
The Sill – a centre of national significance
Speaking of the confidence that HLF has shown in the project by awarding the development funding, Tony Gates, Chief Executive of Northumberland National Park Authority, said: “Our National Parks and protected landscapes are the pinnacle of the eco-systems we all depend upon as well as places of tranquillity and enjoyment. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to capture the public’s imagination and fully engage people in shaping our future use of land.
“I am delighted that we are able to work in partnership with the YHA. This gives us a specific opening to work with young people and help to inspire future generations in the care of our finest and nationally-important landscapes.”
Caroline White, Chief Executive of YHA, said: “YHA is thrilled with the news. The significant sum awarded by HLF is a ringing endorsement of the partnership that has created the vision for The Sill project. The impact will be felt far beyond Northumberland inspiring all, especially young people, to broaden their horizons gaining knowledge and independence through new experiences of adventure and discovery.
“The Sill will enhance learning, skills development and personal growth and responsibility, especially for young people. A visit to The Sill and other inspirational sites in Northumberland National Park will ensure the area becomes a must-visit destination.”
Once Brewed, near Hadrian’s Wall
The new centre will be at Once Brewed at the centre of the Hadrian’s Wall World Heritage Site. It will complement the existing Roman Empire sites and destinations of Vindolanda, the Carvoran Roman Army Museum, Housesteads and Chesters by bringing a focus to the landscape in which Northumberland’s rich heritage is set.
The Sill will offer visitors information to gain the confidence to begin their own journeys of discovery. It will give life-long and life-enhancing learning about the distinctive natural environment and cultural heritage of the Northumberland uplands and exhibit local products and services.
It will allow young people, volunteers and researchers to put down foundations of careers, pioneer new conservation techniques and develop skills the next generation needs to manage landscape and wildlife habitats as the world faces uncertainty and climate change.
Once Brewed has, for many years, housed a Northumberland National Park centre. The centre is an important contact point for the rural community, together with the main visitor centre for Hadrian’s Wall and a YHA Youth Hostel. In the last ten years – with the establishment of the Hadrian’s Wall national trail and cycle path – visitors have increased year-on-year to more than a million people from all over the world. There is now an urgent need for facilities for visitors and educational groups.
Protecting the Northumberland Uplands
Facilities at The Sill will be an exemplar of environmentally-sensitive development in a protected area and they will provide a world-class visitor experience and a new and flexible space for a range of needs.
Explaining the importance of the HLF support, Ivor Crowther, Head of HLF North East, said: “This country’s national parks are, to my mind, the cathedrals of our natural world. They share much in common: impressive in scale as well as the perfect place for quiet contemplation.
“Northumberland National Park welcomes large numbers of visitors every year and these exciting plans should encourage even more whilst also providing a much better experience of the area’s wildlife and cultural heritage. The Heritage Lottery Fund is pleased to be giving initial support for this project and looks forward to working with both the National Park Authority and YHA over the coming months as they develop their ideas further.”
Newcastle University expert approval
Prof. Paul Younger, director of the Newcastle Institute for Research on Sustainability at Newcastle University, and a world-leading expert in his field, gave his resounding appreciation of the project for the region when he said: “When I learned about the project it immediately struck me what a great asset it would be to the North of England and our wild border country.
The Sill will have an exemplary, low carbon design, with space for students to learn about what makes Northumberland National park so special, and why the increasing challenges of today – not least climate change – require our utmost attention if our breathtaking uplands are to remain a treasure for future generations.”
Furthermore, The Sill will provide exciting new opportunities for local enterprises, educators, research institutes, young people, volunteers and visitors. The National Park Authority and the YHA are both very keen to involve people in the development and design process. They are set to begin a programme to involve the wider community in helping to inform and shape proposals in the near future.