Visitor facilities are to be created at the massive Northumberlandia earth sculpture after major funding was secured to further develop the iconic attraction.
Last week it was revealed 100,000 people have visited the landform – dubbed the Lady of the North – since it was opened by the Princess Royal less than a year ago.
Now the Land Trust charity, which manages the ï¿½3m artwork near Cramlington, has unveiled plans for a state-of-the-art visitor centre on the Blagdon Estate-owned site. Funding totaling £242,000 has been secured to build the centre, which will include a cafe and information facilities for people.
The money has come from a community fund run by mining company the Banks Group, and from Defra’s regional economy grant, which supports projects in rural areas.
The visitor centre will be located in woodland next to Northumberlandia and will act as the gateway to the attraction.
Yesterday the Land Trust said it will provide tourists and visitors with key information about the landform, and the local area. It will include a cafe, shop and toilets, and will be managed by the local charity Azure Charitable Enterprises. It will also be available for a range of community activities, such as evening meetings, educational courses and a base for guided walks and talks.
Construction work will start soon and the facility is expected to open some time in November.
Northumberlandia was created by Banks Mining, using 1.5 million tonnes of rock, clay and soil from its Shotton opencast mine. The project was carried out in partnership with the Blagdon Estate.
The 400 metre-long figure of a naked, reclining female is said to be on course to attract between 150,000 and 200,000 visitors in its first year. Yesterday Alan Carter, head of portfolio management at the Land Trust, said funding for visitor centre was fantastic news for Northumberlandia and the region.
He said: “We will be able to provide an environmentally-friendly visitor centre, in keeping with the natural setting, which will improve the overall visitor experience and sustainably, and add to the amenities on site.”
Mark Dowdall, Banks’ environment and community director, said: “I’m delighted that work is soon to start on this important next phase of the Northumberlandia project, which will add significant value to the visitor experience. When we first developed our plans for Northumberlandia, we set out to deliver a new gateway feature for Northumberland, with a unique and spectacular publicly accessible land sculpture as the centrepiece.
“The Lady of the North, and the number of visitors to the park, are already meeting our initial expectations, and I hope that these new facilities will attract even more visitors to the region.”