With a shared mission to capture the imaginations of younger generations, the partnership between Northumberland National Park Authority (NNPA) and YHA (England and Wales) to bring The National Sill Landscape Discovery Centre to life, forms the backbone of the £11.7m project.
The proposed site at Once Brewed has been home to the current National Park centre and a YHA Youth Hostel for 80 years, however without The Sill development it's likely YHA Once Brewed could close in the future.
YHA has been working closely with The Sill project team to ensure the proposed new facility will offer modern accommodation as well as unique learning experiences that utilise the stunning surroundings of the location for many years to come.
As part of The Sill project, the site has already welcomed pupils from a Stockport based primary school who stayed at the current Youth Hostel and tried out a new pilot programme of outdoor learning. The Year 5 pupils from Norris Bank Primary School took part in The Sill's first school 'rivers' discovery day hosted at Walltown Recreational Site where they engaged in everything from pond dipping to discovering mini-beasts; exploration of river side habitats and orienteering, to uncovering the legends and mysteries of fascinating Thirlwall Castle. That is, subjects other than the well-trodden Hadrian's Wall roman history offer.
The visit was organised by Northumberland National Park and YHA as part of the Heritage Lottery Funded (HLF) development phase of the initiative, enabling the project team to trial a wide range of activities with schools and education establishments and to use feedback from teachers and the young people to help shape plans as the project moves forward. This pilot, other testers and market research means the project team developing The Sill are confident that 30,000 new activity days can be promoted and supported through The Sill.
YHA Chief Executive, Caroline White, who was recently named by Women 1st as one of the top 100 most influential women in tourism, attended The Sill's design launch event earlier this year where she called on people to get behind the project to ensure that young people can continue to enjoy a host of exciting outdoor experiences in Northumberland National Park.
She said: "Independent reports commissioned by the project team demonstrate that if we 'do nothing', the current facilities at YHA 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 YHA site and to create a nationally significant Landscape Discovery Centre."
Since the YHA was established in 1930, the charity has continued in its mission 'to inspire all, especially young people, to broaden their horizons gaining knowledge and independence through new experiences of adventure and discovery.' By 2017 YHA has a goal of reaching 1 million young people every year by 2017. In recent years, millions of pounds have been invested in its network helping put further distance between the outdated public perception of Youth Hostels and the modern reality.
"The National Park Authority's partnership with the YHA is a natural one," explained project director Stuart Evans. "The YHA has a proven track record helping young people take part in educational or recreational visits with their friends, families and classmates."
Caroline added: "Staying with YHA not only offers young people a great opportunity to learn new skills and make friends in a fun environment, but offers them the chance to take back their 'wild time', swap screen time and get outdoors. YHA is committed to helping young people face new challenges while being looked after in a safe, fun and challenging environment. Without fail young people grow in confidence while staying with us."