Northumberland discovery centre reaches major milestone

Chairman of Northumberland National Park, Coun Glen Sanderson and chief executive Tony Gates with the time capsule that is to be buried at The Sill.
Chairman of Northumberland National Park, Coun Glen Sanderson and chief executive Tony Gates with the time capsule that is to be buried at The Sill.

A Northumberland discovery centre has welcomed its 250,000th visitor.

The Sill: National Landscape Discovery Centre reached the milestone less than two years after opening its doors to the public.

To celebrate the achievement, Northumberland National Park Authority (NNPA) is asking local schools and visitors to The Sill to contribute to a commemorative time capsule which will be buried on-site for the next 25 years.

Glen Sanderson, NNPA chairman, said: “We are absolutely overwhelmed at how well The Sill has been received by the public and pleased to have reached another important milestone in The Sill’s history.

“From the outset, our vision for The Sill was to create a visitor destination which would excite and inspire people about the local landscape and encourage them to learn more about the fantastic heritage of Northumberland. We are certainly achieving this goal.

“By developing The Sill as a hub for organised events and activities, such as our unique stargazing suppers, which capitalise on the centre’s enviable location in the Northumberland International Dark Sky Park, as well as providing an ideal base from which people can have their own adventures in the National Park and beyond, we have successfully expanded our captive audience and encouraged more visitors from both the local area and overseas into the county.”

Linking with the Government’s 25-year plan for the natural environment, visitors to centre will be encouraged to share their hopes and aspirations for the future of the National Park and the wider environment.

These will be displayed in the permanent exhibition space at The Sill before being added to the time capsule and buried.

Tony Gates, NNPA chief executive, said: “Like the Government, we believe we have been handed a rich set of assets in our National Parks, and we want to hand them on to the next generation in a better state than we inherited them.

“We would love to hear from visitors of all ages about how we can work alongside businesses, members of the public, individuals and organisations to help conserve our natural environment.”

Designed to enable more people to enjoy the history and landscapes of rural Northumberland, the £14.8million visitor centre at Once Brewed on Hadrian’s Wall has smashed all of Northumberland National Park Authority’s visitor predictions to achieve this key milestone more than 10 months ahead of target.

The National Lottery-supported centre, which combines state-of-the-art facilities together with a diverse activity programme and a unique range of award-winning fixed and temporary exhibitions, provides the perfect location for people of all ages to explore some of the region’s most spectacular unspoilt scenery.

It is the UK’s first dedicated National Landscape Discovery Centre and the result of a pioneering partnership between Northumberland National Park Authority and YHA (England and Wales), and funded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund through a £7.8million grants.

Named after the nearby Great Whin Sill, in addition to the YHA youth hostel, fixed and temporary exhibition spaces and the on-site café, it features learning and event spaces, a rural business hub and a gift shop, as well as a world-first, fully accessible grassland roof.