Alan Castle: Let us shout about the riches in our county

WE have just gone through a very bad winter, probably one of the worst on record in recent decades.

Talk to those in business and the majority will tell you it was the worst they have ever gone through.

So with the tourism promotion budget being hacked by the county and One North East disappearing, along with, it appears, every other budget in the land, how are we to attract people to this part of the world?

We have the two main arteries to Scotland and for those travelling south – road and rail pass through our county. But do we use them to attract visitors – no we do not?

I suppose, in mitigation, tourists will say that the A1 is so bad we just want to get through as quickly as possible.

But we have untold riches. We have our history; our heritage of great houses, some of the finest in Britain; our wildlife, think of the Farne Island or Coquet Island; totally unspoiled beaches, the superb Cheviots, wonderful inland villages our outstanding coastline, castles galore and the gem in the crown, Holy Island.

Our county-grown food compares with any in the country. We can serve you wild salmon, superb sea foods of all descriptions, venison and game, the best beef in the land, superb lamb, locally-made dishes, great cooking and some fine ales.

We are a hospitable lot and we will give you a warm welcome if you do not abuse us or our fine county.

I was thinking this the other day as I travelled from Newcastle to Berwick. I have a funny business life going south in the morning to go north in the afternoon and returning to the middle later in the day.

On my journey, did I notice one sign to tell us of the riches that I listed above?

Only the odd sign to a castle, one farm shop, an AA sign for the Alnwick Garden, Holy Island was highlighted and that was about it.

We do not even sell this part of the world well. Gone are the days when we can say we no longer welcome visitors. They are the future as far as this part of the world is concerned at present.

It needs a campaign, but just to get it moving, let us have a few signs on the A1. I often think that planners are the biggest drawback for businesses to get ahead.

There is the instance where one man has been battling for years at Beal to get a sign up to tell of the restaurant near the approach to Holy Island. He can’t get one sign yet a few miles up the road there are a number of hoardings and flags for Haggerston Caravan Park.

Down the road at Belford a new farm shop was able to get a sign. There is much inconsistency.

Why can’t we get one big sign to tell of Bamburgh, Seahouses, Beadnell Craster, Alnmouth, Warkworth and Amble? Erect one at Felton for northbound and at Belford for southbound.

Of course, planners and highways authorities would jump in and say signs cause accidents. Have you seen how many signs there are for the roadworks on the A1 and as far as I know, not one has caused an accident. It is the same when you are on motorways.

Meet a visitor in a tourist café or restaurant and they will tell you they are amazed at what we have to offer.

They are not the type looking for a Disney, a Blackpool or an Alton Towers but they know what they want and they have cash to spend.

Wake up planners and make it easier for those trying to make a living in a hard, competitive world.

Why not just stick up signs with the words ‘This way to history and nature at its best’.