WORK is under way on the building of a visitor centre at a Northumberland tourist attraction.
Construction began this week on the new centre at Northumberlandia, the landform sculpture of a reclining lady near Cramlington.
The Land Trust, the national open space management charity managing which is the steward of Northumberlandia, recently secured funding from Banks Community Fund and Defra’s Regional Economy Grant totalling £242,000 to construct the facility.
The centre will comprise of a café, shop and toilets and will be managed by Azure Charitable Enterprises.
It will be located in the site’s woodland area and act as the gateway to the ‘Lady of the North,’ providing visitors with key information about the landform and the local area.
The facility will also be available for a range of community activities, such as evening meetings, educational courses and a base for guided walks and talks.
It is being constructed by Newcastle firm, Clearspace Buildings, and should be open by the end of November.
Alan Carter, head of portfolio management at the Land Trust, said: “The park has had over 100,000 visitors in its first year.
“The addition of a visitor centre and café will improve the overall visitor experience and allow us to attract even more people to the region.
“We are therefore very grateful to the Banks Community Fund and Defra’s Regional Economy Grant for funding this work.”
Mark Dowdall, environment and community director at the Banks Group, said: “I am 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, providing a really special place for the local community and attracting new visitors to the region.
“The Lady of the North and the number of visitors to the park are already meeting our initial expectations and I hope these new facilities will attract even more visitors to the region.”
Peter Elliott OBE, chief executive of Azure Charitable Enterprises, said: “Having been involved in the landform project from the outset, I am extremely enthusiastic at the prospect of managing the new visitor centre and the many exciting opportunities that it will bring.”
Much of the construction work is to take place off site.
This allows the preparation of groundwork to be carried out at the same time and cut the overall construction time.
Northumberlandia was designed by the world-renowned architect and landscape designer, Charles Jencks.
Made of 1.5 million tonnes of carefully selected rock, clay and soil, it is 100 feet high, a quarter of a mile long and seven and a half times the size of a football pitch.
There are over four miles of new paths on and around the landform, and it takes approximately 20 minutes to walk around it.
Northumberlandia’s water features cover the same area as 10 Olympic-sized swimming pools.
Over 10,000 man hours were involved in the landform’s construction.
The Lady of the North is set in a 46-acre community park with free public access.
The landform cost £3m to construct, which was privately funded by The Banks Group and Blagdon Estate, and is managed on the Land Trust’s behalf by Northumberland Wildlife Trust.
No public funding has been used in any part of the development.
Mr Jencks visited Northumberlandia in August to give a talk about what inspired his creation to dozens of local residents and business people, and led a tour.