Thousands flock to see giant earth sculpture

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THOUSANDS of sightseers from across the north east have been flocking to Cramlington to have a look around the new Northumberlandia earth sculpture.

After being officially opened by the Princess Royal last week, the 100ft-high creation welcomed its first visitors a week ago yesterday and again on Saturday and yesterday as part of a series of initial dates for public access.

Throughout the day, a steady stream of visitors arrived to explore the unique landform, which is more than seven times the size of a football pitch and taller than an eight-storey building to the forehead, which is its highest point.

Chris Lilley, of Cramlington, and his wife Liz were among the first visitors to the sculpture, the centrepiece of a public park sprawling over 47 acres of land donated by the Blagdon Estate.

He said: “Northumberlandia has more than met our expectations, it really has.

“It’s very unusual for Cramlington to have something as unique as this. It really puts us on the map, and I think it’ll bring a lot of visitors to the area.”

Fellow visitor Susan McGregor, of Whitley Bay, said: “I saw it on the news, so I decided to take a look for myself, and I think it’s brilliant.

“It’ll be really good for the area and will bring in lots of visitors.”

Mavis Hindmarsh, a neighbour of the site, added: “We’ve been able to see the face from our back window, so we’ve watched it grow over the last few years, and I’ve kept saying ‘I wish it was open’.

“I think it’s beautiful, and it’s turned out to be even better than we expected.

“When you see it close up, it’s really amazing.”

The Blagdon Estate and regional mining firm the Banks Group have jointly invested around £3m in the creation of Northumberlandia, designed by US artist Charles Jencks.

It has taken the County Durham-based firm two and a half years to construct using 1.5 million tonnes of stone, clay and soil extracted from its nearby Shotton surface mine.

Katie Perkin, communications manager at the Banks Group, says: “There’s been a huge amount of interest and excitement about Northumberlandia opening to the public, and to see so many people coming to see her at the first possible opportunity is fantastic.

“Northumberlandia was designed as both an outstanding artistic landmark which would stand alongside the region’s other main tourist attractions and as the centrepiece of new high-quality leisure facilities for use by the local community and visitors to the area. It’s great to see both those goals already being achieved.

“The site will become fully open to the public on a gradual basis over the next few months, but there will be lots of opportunities for people to visit Northumberlandia in the coming weeks.

“If the initial welcome is anything to go by, she is going to quickly become an extremely popular destination.”

Northumberlandia will next be open to the public between noon and 4pm this Saturday and Sunday.

Go online and visit the website www.northumberlandia.com for details.