29th July 2017

On Saturday 29 July Northumberland National Park Authority will officially welcome its first visitors to The Sill: National Landscape Discovery Centre and 86-bed youth hostel at Once Brewed on Hadrian’s Wall.

The grand opening of the £14.8m state-of-the-art visitor centre and world-class youth hostel will also be the finale to the UK National Parks Week festivities, which run from Monday 24 to Sunday 30 July.

To celebrate, Northumberland National Park is hosting a week-long festival of activities and events at key locations across the Park, which will culminate in The Sill opening weekend on 29 and 30 July.

Sill Manager Sarah Glynn

Sill Manager Sarah Glynn

Sarah Glynn, Sill Manager explains: “The Sill is Northumberland National Park’s new world-class visitor attraction and the UK’s first dedicated National Landscape Discovery Centre. An all-weather, all-year facility, The Sill is designed to excite, inspire and enable people of all ages to understand and explore the landscapes, history, culture and heritage of Northumberland and the many other fantastic attractions in the county and beyond.

“We’ve planned the public opening to coincide with UK National Parks Week and the beginning of the school summer holidays to encourage as many people as possible to join in the celebrations, take a tour of the building and try out lots of family-friendly activities.

“We are transforming our site at Walltown into a giant playground and we’re also making it easier and cheaper for people to get involved. Visitors can buy a wristband for all our National Parks Week events and take advantage of a free vintage bus service which will be operating on the Saturday to take them between Walltown and The Sill.

“With exhibitions, a café, YHA, information point and a shop packed with local produce, arts and crafts, there’s plenty to keep everyone happy for a visit or a stay. After many, many months of dedication and hard work it’s fantastic to be celebrating the opening and welcoming the public at last!”

During the opening weekend there will be regular guided tours of the unique Whin Sill Grassland roof and youth hostel (YHA The Sill at Hadrian’s Wall).

Visitors will have the opportunity to take in the iconic views of one of the UK’s most magnificent landscapes and the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Hadrian’s Wall from the building’s fully accessible living grassland roof walk or take a guided stroll to view Peel Crags, a fantastic opportunity to get in to the landscape for even the most in experienced countryside visitor.

Get Stuck In

They can also try their hand at bush crafts with National Park Rangers. There will also be face painting, medieval wood turners, storytelling, art and craft workshops and a local choir will be performing throughout the day.

Spearheaded by Northumberland National Park Authority with support from partners and funders including YHA (England & Wales), and thanks to money raised by National Lottery players through a £7.8 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), The Sill is a unique visitor attraction for the region. Not only is it a tourist and visitor destination, the all-weather facility provides an important learning and research site for landscape, conservation, countryside management, leisure and tourism skills development.

It will help more people explore the landscape of the National Park and has a target of at least 100,000 visitors annually. Since construction began in November 2015 there have been more than 960 Sill events and 31,786 Sill activity days providing a range of education and volunteering opportunities.

The building boasts a 90-seater café, 86 bed Youth Hostel, gift shop, fixed and temporary exhibitions, a rural business hub, learning and event spaces, a national park information point and a fully accessible Whin Sill grassland roof, the only one of its kind in the world.

Explore, understand and nurture

Chairman of Northumberland National Park Authority, Glen Sanderson, explains: “Our vision is for our nation’s exceptional landscapes to be enjoyed by as many people as possible, and to provide the opportunity for people to explore, understand and nurture these landscapes and the people, heritage and wildlife that shape them. That is why Northumberland is the natural home for The Sill: National Landscape Discovery Centre.

NNPA Chairman Glen Sanderson

“We want the Park to be a sustainable cultural and economic asset that benefits the region for many years to come. The Sill is providing a superb platform to attract even more visitors to the county annually. As well as enabling local enterprise to thrive, it will help to support employment and job creation through the delivery of 30,000 activity days and events throughout the Park.

“The project and its legacy also highlights the important role of the rural economy and sustainable tourism in inspiring future generations to celebrate, enjoy and conserve our wild places for the benefit of everyone and to ensure the communities within them continue to thrive.”

The building’s design and the structural materials used to create it are inspired by The Great Whin Sill, Northumberland’s internationally-renowned geological feature. The building is positioned to mimic this dramatic geological outcrop with natural undulations and flowing lines.

It was designed by JDDK Architects based in Ponteland and built by Sir Robert McAlpine. A natural palette of materials was selected for the construction to include locally sourced sandstone to create softer curved walls and buttressing to the south, with a more angular elevation to the north, using locally sourced whinstone in gabion baskets to incorporate the Great Whin Sill.

Timber is used in the form of larch cladding with the angular timber roof reflecting the rising angular form of the Great Whin Sill. A south facing timber canopy supports photovoltaic cells to provide a renewable energy source as well shade from the sun.

Ivor Crowther, Head of HLF North East, said: “From stunning countryside to Hadrian’s Wall, thanks to money raised by National Lottery players The Sill is set to become a world-class gateway to Northumberland’s incredible heritage and unquestionable beauty. We are delighted to celebrate

this milestone, which is testament to years of hard work, and look forward to the beginning of an exciting future for Northumberland’s heritage, landscapes and local economy.”

James Blake, Chief Executive of YHA (England & Wales) said: “YHA The Sill has been a long time in the making and I am delighted to see our partnership with Northumberland National Park Authority deliver this world-class Youth Hostel in a truly magnificent setting. Through YHA The Sill we will be able to inspire and support many more young people both locally and nationally and help them on their personal journey of travel, adventure and discovery. This is a very exciting time in YHA’s 85 year history.”