The beginning of March heralds the start of a new visitor season for some of the region’s best loved attractions, and this year there are lots of new things to discover.
Iconic buildings including Cragside, Wallington and Souter Lighthouse are all dusting down the furniture to open their doors to the thousands of visitors who enjoy National Trust attractions each year.
This year, the Trust is opening up new spaces at Wallington and tempting visitors with tasty treats from the new bakery and butchery at Gibside, and from Cragside’s newly restored kitchen range. The conservation charity will also be celebrating 90 years caring for the Farne Islands on the Northumberland Coast and 25 years caring for Souter Lighthouse in South Tyneside.
Joanna Royle, Head of Marketing and Supporter Development for the National Trust said:
“Every year we welcome over 1.7 million visitors to National Trust places in the North East, from tourists visiting for the first time to family members who enjoy events and activities on weekends and school holidays. We’re constantly looking for ways to improve the experiences we offer our visitors and supporters, to make their visit as enjoyable as possible. Our aim is for people who love the places we look after to continue to support us by visiting regularly, joining as members or volunteering. It's only through this type of support that we can exist as a charity.”
With a new visitor season just around the corner, here are just some of the highlights you can expect from the National Trust across the North East in the year ahead….
Wallington, Cambo, Northumberland
2015 is general election year and the Trust has got campaign fever at Wallington, the home of the very political Trevelyan family. Beginning his political career at the age of 22, Sir Charles Trevelyan was passionate about politics and people. His socialist beliefs led him to give his 13,500 acre family estate to the National Trust back in 1941, to be enjoyed by everyone for generations to come.
This generous gift is at the heart of what is set to be a very democratic year at Wallington, beginning with the opening up of the west wing of the house. From late March to June, visitors can join a tour to see the west wing for the first time, hear stories of the Trevelyan family who lived there, and cast their vote on its future use.
Allen Banks and Staward Gorge, Northumberland
After Rangers caught an Otter family on video on the river Allen for the first time this winter, the National Trust were devastated when the wildlife camera was later stolen. Spring sees a turn-around in the charity’s luck as environmentally conscious wine brand Banrock Station has come forward with funding not only to replace the stolen equipment, but also to help protect Otter habitat on the river. This money will enable National Trust Ranger’s to monitor the Otter family to see if any more young are born this summer and identify where habitat improvement work can be done along the river. The funding has been secured through Banrock Station’s ‘Vote For Nature’ initiative in partnership with the National Trust. Launched last year, the initiative asked the nation to decide how £100,000 should be shared between National Trust projects benefitting five endangered species; pine martens, puffins, red squirrels, bats and otters. Allen Banks has also been successful in securing funding to monitor the Red Squirrel population in the area.
Gibside, Rowlands Gill, Gateshead
It’s all about getting a taste of the region at Gibside this spring as the newly opened butchery and bakery get into full swing. Housed in a new building within Gibside’s market square, where regular farmers’ markets take place, the butchery and bakery give local suppliers the facilities they need to help their businesses thrive. In addition, Gibside has converted more spaces into creative studios. Gibside is the National Trust’s fastest growing attraction in the North East, with visitor numbers increasing from 65,000 to 200,000 in the last ten years. It’s easy to see how Gibside’s diversification benefits both local businesses based there, and the Trust as a charity which relies heavily on visitor support. Next time you’re there we’d recommend a pizza from the wood fired oven.
Souter Lighthouse and The Leas, South Tyneside
The National Trust first opened the doors of Souter Lighthouse to visitors on 19 July, 1990. 25 years later and it’s on course to have one of its most successful years to date with over 28,000 expected. In its 25th year, Souter will be carrying out major restoration work to the metal and glass diamond panels in the lantern room at the top of the tower. Outside along The Leas, The Trust is working with the local Coastal Conservation Group to undertake the first ever annual wildlife survey of this stretch of coastline. This includes an intensive eight week Storm Petrel ringing project, the longest of its kind.
Cragside, Rothbury, Northumberland
Volunteers at Cragside will be getting to grips with Victorian cooking in April on the newly restored kitchen range. Thanks to money raised through raffle ticket sales last year, the National Trust has restored the kitchen range in Lord Armstrong’s impressive kitchen, which has the first example of a working dishwasher, a service lift and a water powered spit. Victorian baking days will take place every Wednesday in the house and visitors will be invited to taste a slice of Victorian life with a variety of historical cakes.
Lindisfarne Castle, Holy Island, Northumberland
Lindisfarne Castle is showing its age and is currently experiencing severe water ingress problems that are affecting the external stonework, internal plaster and decor of the building. The castle has 101 historic windows, 38 of which currently leak in bad weather.
In 2014 the National Trust undertook survey work to inform a programme of works going forward. This summer, they will begin trial works to investigate the best conservation techniques to help make the building watertight for the future. The conservation work will begin in 2017, and is estimated to cost over £1million. The Trust will be launching a major fundraising campaign to help fund the work.
Farne Islands, Northumberland
The Farne Islands are one of the most exciting seabird colonies in England with unrivalled views of 23 species, including around 37,000 pairs of puffins. It's also home to a large grey seal colony, with more than 1,000 pups born every autumn. 2015 is the 90th anniversary of the acquisition of the Farne Islands by the National Trust. The conservation work carried out by the National Trust has resulted in a thriving natural habitat for wildlife, making it one of the most important seabird nature reserves in the country.
Seaton Delaval Hall, Northumberland
The gardens and grounds at Seaton Delaval Hall are sure to put a spring in your step this season, with new woodland walks enabling you to enjoy the beautiful displays of bluebells and historic daffodils. Families can enjoy a year of Georgian themed activities and events and look out for newly carved Delaval sheep. The Central Hall will also be fully open after a number of years of major conservation work.
Washington Old Hall, Tyne & Wear
The National Trust will be bringing a warm glow to the inside of Washington Old Hall this year. Six out of the seven fireplaces in the hall have been fitted with a realistic fire setting, giving you a better idea of what it would have looked, felt and even smelt like in the 17th century.
Hadrian’s Wall and Housesteads Fort
Rekindle your love for Hadrian’s Wall this year with guided walks and talks from experts on Saturday 18 April to celebrate World Heritage Day – the International day for Monuments and Sites. The day aims to highlight the importance of conserving monuments and sites of cultural heritage as well as celebrating the diversity of our heritage. The National Trust look after six miles of the UNESCO World Heritage Site Hadrian’s Wall from Sewingshields in the east to Cawfields in the west. The charity work in close partnership with English Heritage to conserve Housesteads Roman Fort, one of the best preserved Roman Forts in Britain