Marking the dawn of a new era for the Great British countryside, the team behind Northumberland's planned £11.2million Landscape Discovery Centre, this week launched a £3.7million fundraising campaign, backed by polar explorer, Conrad Dickinson.
In order to make the vision for the new national flagship Landscape Discovery Centre and YHA Youth Hostel, a reality, the team from Northumberland National Park Authority and YHA (England and Wales) launched the effort to encourage investors and sponsors to pledge their support for this once-in-a-generation opportunity. If successful, the initiative will see the transformation of the current 1960s Once Brewed National Park centre into an iconic destination of international significance, and gateway to the stunning landscape of Northumberland and North East England.
Coming together at the awe-inspiring Steel Rigg site in Northumberland, the project team were joined by explorer, Conrad Dickinson, and representatives from the community, to unveil their fundraising 'totaliser' which will become a feature of the current site as the campaign gathers pace.
From pupils at Queen Elizabeth's High School in Hexham who have been heavily involved in the project, to Deborah Brady from Albion Outdoors, the group today appealed for support to help safeguard one of Britain's most stunning rural landscapes. By investing in the project, supporters will be creating a facility that will significantly boost the local tourism economy, educating and inspiring generations to come to conserve the region's finest countryside. And there are a number of ways in which people can get involved, from making a one-off cash donation to taking out a sponsored partnership package and by volunteering their time and support to help with the development of The Sill.
Conrad Dickinson, has lived in Northumberland all his life, and shares a passion for the outdoors, heightened by his many adventures including becoming the first and only Briton to have achieved the 'Polar Grand Slam', the completion of the world's three hardest polar expeditions. As a Patron and Ambassador for British Exploring, he is passionate about giving young people every opportunity to stretch their horizons and believes The Sill project could greatly assist as a springboard for young people to engage in outdoor activities within the National Park.
Speaking about the project and its importance, Conrad said: "The Sill will become an emblematic location which will engage a wide selection of the population, encouraging them to explore the beauty of Northumberland National Park and transform how they engage with, experience and learn about landscapes and conservation. I particularly hope it stimulates young people to expand their horizons and engage in the wide variety of outdoor activities within the National Park. An opportunity like this only comes around once-in-a-generation and I support the project and its exciting ambitions 100 per cent. It is really important that people get behind The Sill, to help raise the vital funds needed to make it a reality."
National recognition of the significant investment potential of the concept came from a successful bid for funds from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), to develop plans for The Sill. HLF have funded the development phase of the project, and they have earmarked an additional £6m should match funding be achieved. The development phase investment from HLF has helped to take forward the exciting design concepts for the building, developed by award-winning architects', Jane Darbyshire and David Kendall. Now ready to take into the planning stages of the project, the designs represent a building both 'inspired by the landscape and of the landscape' with a stunning green roof created from the rare Whin grassland and native Northumbrian wildflowers – a UK first. Significantly, the public have been heavily involved in the design process, via an extensive community consultation process. A fundamental part of the development phase has also been the progression of an exciting activity programme which includes a range of activities from heritage skills to arts and cultural events; all of which will offer immersive outdoor experiences and a fresh perspective of the natural world.
At the launch of the campaign, the project team demonstrated exactly how people can pledge their support to the project and why this once-in-a-generation opportunity is such a great opportunity.
Tony Gates, Chief Executive at Northumberland National Park Authority, said: "The Sill represents the vision of Northumberland National Park Authority, the Youth Hostels Association and many of our partners to create a unique space which will become a centre of excellence for sustainability, education and conservation. We are appealing to investors and sponsors to help make The Sill into all it can be. From businesses that wish to invest in our shared values to individuals committed to making a contribution to the environment, education and the rural economy, we want to work with you to reach our goal.
"With The Sill, there is a real opportunity to make a difference to the lives of young people and help to inspire future generations; it marks a step change benefit for the regional economy and nation's enjoyment and discovery of the great British countryside. We as an organisation are passionate about making the countryside matter to people of all ages.
"Today we have launched our fundraising campaign to help raise the essential £3.7m needed to make our vision a reality. We would like to hear from you, if you think you can make a contribution towards our target – no matter how big or small, whether time or money, we want The Sill to mean something to everyone in our region and if you're passionate about making a real difference, we would urge you to get in touch."
Caroline White, Chief Executive, YHA (England and Wales), said: "Independent reports commissioned by the project team demonstrate that if we 'do nothing', the current YHA facilities at Once Brewed will continue to decline and ultimately the centre may have to close. It's absolutely vital we don't let this happen – The Sill is our opportunity to transform the current site YHA and to create a nationally significant Landscape Discovery Centre."
For more information about The Sill and the upcoming events, visit www.thesill.org.uk , find The Sill on Facebook or follow The Sill on Twitter @thesillproject
A video filmed at the launch of the fundraising campaign can be found on our YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6GtetVstatM&feature=youtu.be