A hotel may be the next step forward for a valley which has recovered from its industrial past to enjoy a new green future as a visitor attraction.
Gateshead Council is on the look out for prospective hotel operators who would be interested in opening what it describes as “destination” hotel in the Derwent Valley.
It is already home to the National Trust’s Gibside Estate.
It has gained a high profile for its re-introduced red kites population and the river is home to salmon again following the introduction of a fish pass.
Derwent Walk Country Park also hopes to see visitors climb above 250,000 this year for the first time. The park, centred around the trackbed of the former Derwent Valley railway line to Consett and the transformed site of the former Derwenthaugh Cokeworks, is now a magnet for walkers, cyclists, families and wildlife.
The valley, which runs from the Tyne at Gateshead to County Durham, is also at the centre of plans for a £3.6m scheme which will explore the complex industrial and natural heritage of the landscape.
The project, titled Land of Oak and Iron, has been awarded a development grant of £155,980 by the Heritage Lottery Fund and involves a partnership of Groundwork North East, Gateshead and Durham and Northumberland county councils, Durham Wildlife Trust, Environment Agency, Natural England, Gateshead Voluntary Organisations Council and the North of England Civic Trust.
Now it is hoped that the combination of high foot fall attractions and a rural location coupled to relative proximity to the centre of Tyneside and transport connections like the A1 will prove tempting to hotel operators.
Gateshead Council strategic director of development and enterprise, Paul Dowling, said: “We think there is real potential for a successful hotel business in Gateshead’s rural area. Whilst existing accommodation providers tell us they do well, there is a clear gap in the market for a larger, destination style, hotel that could take advantage of the superb surroundings and excellent transport links.
“We’re thinking of a hotel that accommodates weddings and other events, that brings new visitors to the area and which will support the growth of new and existing tourism businesses in the area.
“When you travel to other parts of the country that already play host to similar ventures it seems obvious that Gateshead’s rural area could provide a splendid location.
“We’re not just issuing a plea though. We’re really keen to be supportive and offer all of the advice and guidance we can to make the right projects come to fruition.
“We’d be very happy to work hand in hand with investors to make this happen.”
The council is working with a variety of organisations to boost rural tourism, with one of the first improvements set to be rolled out involving changes to brown tourism signage in the area to better direct visitors to local attractions.
The ease of access to the area from the A1 and by public transport is also seen as a major advantage.
Mr Dowling said: “There aren’t many places that can be in completely rural surroundings yet within a 15 minute drive of places like Metrocentre and Gateshead Quays, which attract millions of visitors a year.”
Potential investors are being asked to contact Gateshead Council by calling Steve Reay on 0191 433 2036 or emailing email@example.com