Views Sought on New Northumberland Centre

Northumberland National Park Authority (NNPA) is asking members of the public for their views on an ambitious new centre that's being planned for a key location in the park.
[Missing photo!]

The National Park Authority, working in partnership with the Youth Hostel Association (YHA), have received initial support from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for the Sill Landscape Discovery Centre at Once Brewed, in the heart of the Hadrian's Wall World Heritage Site. For walkers and climbers this is a prime location close to the best stretch of the wall around Peel Crag and Crag Lough.

The initial grant from HLF will just fund the development of the proposal; several more funding and planning stages will have to be passed through before the projected opening of the new facility in 2016. A series of consultations are now getting underway with partner organisations, the local community and other interested parties to establish what's needed, and see what people think of the proposal so far.

What sort of centre would visitors like to see here? How might it help attract people who are currently disengaged from the countryside? If you've any ideas, they would like to hear from you.

Hadrian's Wall at Steel Rigg, 191 kb
Hadrian's Wall at Steel Rigg
© Roger Clegg

The joint project will replace the existing Youth Hostel and the small adjacent National Park Centre that currently occupy the site, both of which date from the 1970s - an era not renowned for its sympathetic architecture.

'We're not looking for a shiny new statement building' says Andrew Miller of the Sill Landscape Discovery Centre Project.

'Instead we're aiming for something sympathetically designed, that sits within and lives up to the qualities of the National Park and the World Heritage Site.'

Most visitors come to this part of Northumberland for the Roman Heritage, he tells us, but many go away impressed with the surrounding landscape too. Visitor provision at the wall itself is already good, but facilities that offer information/interpretation of the landscape itself are more limited. The new centre is designed in part to help plug that gap.

'We want to help visitors learn about the unique landscapes of Northumberland' says Andrew Miller, 'and about people's relation to the local environment, and its conservation.'

The proposal includes a visitor centre with a high standard of facilities for walkers and other visitors (including the obligatory cafe and retail element - both rather lacking here at present), plus galleries, classrooms for courses, and even some National Park operational space to allow rangers and other staff to work on site. The YHA plan to open a new 80-bed hostel with modern family and group accommodation as part of the complex. The aim is to create a flexible space that can meet a wide range of needs.

But it's about more than just the building, Andrew Miller says. The unique feature of the centre will be the activities that will use it as a base, from which people will be tempted out into the surrounding landscape with support for outdoor recreation and practical hands-on skills courses such as drystone walling or tree planting.

The idea is to create a place where young people, volunteers and researchers can pioneer new conservation techniques and develop the skills needed to manage landscape and wildlife habitats in the face of uncertainty and climate change.

For comments or enquiries contact The Sill Landscape Discovery Centre Project by email

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