For many years, Once Brewed has housed a Northumberland National Park centre – 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 decade, with the establishment of the Hadrian’s Wall national trail and cycle path, annual visitors have increased to over a million people from all over the world, and there is an urgent need for facilities for visitors and educational groups.
The new centre’s facilities will be an exemplar of environmentally-sensitive development in a protected area, providing a world-class visitor experience and a new and flexible space for a range of needs.
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.”
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.”
World-leading expert in his field, Prof. Paul Younger, director of the Newcastle Institute for Research on Sustainability at Newcastle University, added his resounding appreciation of the project for the region:
“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.”
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 keen to involve people throughout the development and design process and will shortly begin a programme to involve the wider community in helping to inform and shape proposals.