A UNIQUE landform that is expected to bring thousands of tourists to the county has received the backing from the man responsible for leading Northumberland’s tourism drive.
Giles Ingram, chief executive of Northumberland Tourism, has backed the positive impact that the world’s largest human landform sculpture will have on visitor numbers to England’s border county when it opens to the public.
The 400m long Northumberlandia figure is now clearly visible from the roads, rail links and countryside that surround the site to the west of Cramlington, and landscaping work is scheduled to be finished later this year.
Designed by world-renowned artist Charles Jencks, Northumberlandia has been formed from around 1.5 million tonnes of crushed and compacted stone, covered with clay and soil taken from the nearby Shotton surface mine, which is being operated by regional developer Banks Mining.
Banks and the Blagdon Estate are investing around £2.5m in the creation of the landform, which will form the centrepiece of a 19-hectare public park being built on estate land which will be managed as an amenity for the local community and an attraction for visitors to the region.
Additional infrastructure, ‘greening’ and other development work is also scheduled to take place this year, in advance of the park’s official opening.
Giles Ingram sits on the Northumberlandia Advisory Panel, a group made up of representatives from local community groups whose members have been involved with Banks, Blagdon Estate and the county council in monitoring the progress of the landform’s construction and agreeing the management plan for the landform park.
He said: “I’m blown away by the realisation of the Northumberlandia project. Seeing plans, models and photographs just doesn’t do it justice - once you go up there, once you even start to approach it, you realise what an enormous creation it is – it is absolutely stupendous.
“From a tourism point of view, I’m certain people will be interested in it and intrigued by it from a distance, but until they come up and see it, they’re not going to fully comprehend what it is, because what else have we got to compare it with?
“It’s quite unlike anything else that anyone will have been on, and I think it’s going to be one of those things that people are going to have to come and experience if they really want to understand it.
“What’s going to be fascinating is seeing it through different seasons – in every different time of the year, it’s going to appeal to people in different ways, from climbing up to the forehead when the wind’s blowing in winter to just strolling around it when the sun is shining.”
Katie Perkin from the Banks Group added: “There’s already a great deal of excitement building around the tourism, cultural, landscape and amenity benefits that Northumberlandia will bring to this part of the north east.
“The landform’s artistic merits will add to what is already a hugely attractive regional offering for visitors and we’re confident that the economic benefits of the scheme will be quickly felt by businesses in the surrounding area.
“Bringing Northumberlandia to life has been a real labour of love for our Shotton team, and the work that they have contributed to her creation makes the project’s community links even stronger.
“The scheme was designed to provide a lasting legacy for the area, alongside the significant employment and economic contributions that we make through our Shotton surface mine, and indeed couldn’t have happened without the mining operations, which provided the revenues, raw materials and the expertise required to make the project happen.
“Part of this legacy will be through the increased number of visitors that the landform brings to both the local area and the wider north east, and the additional tourism revenues that this will undoubtedly bring to our region.”
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Key Facts About Northumberlandia:
n She is up to 34 metres high and 400m in length
n Around 1.5 million tonnes of crushed and compacted stone, clay and soil were taken from the Shotton surface mine
n Will form the centrepiece of a public park.
n It will take approximately 20 minutes to walk the 1,162m-long outer path around Northumberlandia
n There will be a total of 4,160m of surfaced paths and 2,543m of grass paths
n Northumberlandia is seven and a half times the size of the pitch at St James’ Park, and taller than an eight-storey building at its highest point