Dukesfield and Old Man Bottom in today’s Guardian

The ever-eloquent Susie White, who lives in the Allen Valleys and regularly writes for The Guardian’s Country Diary, today describes the delights of Old Man Bottom. This popular picnic and paddling spot is where the packhorse route The Black Way fords the River Allen, and it’s just down the hill from the local trekking centre. So it made perfect sense for the Dukesfield Smelters and Carriers Project to locate one of their stone packhorse milestones here.

In her writing, Susie celebrates this lovely sculpture, carved by local stonemason David Edwick after studying real ponies, and links to the Dukesfield website: www.dukesfield.org.uk which is a ‘mine’ of interesting information.

Enjoy Susie’s article here: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/may/24/a-walk-upriver-to-the-sound-of-goldcrests


£1.7M Success for Nenthead Chapel

So glad the fantastic success of the volunteers at Nenthead Chapel Project can be shouted from the #RoofOfEngland at last! I was commissioned to deliver audience development and education and training research for their HLF development phase and in true Nenthead character their self-reliance and resillience has won through.

What an inspiration they are!


Revamped Hadrian’s Wall Learning website goes live

There’s a new look to the learning website we created last year for Hadrian’s Wall – a World Heritage Site that helps you to learn about politics, engineering, art, geography, languages… and history.

73 miles long, 11 museums
Experience epic landscapes for free
Groups get free or discounted entry to sites with trained staff support
Wide range of classroom and site resources to support your teaching
Targeted online resources for homework and pupils’ research
Activities and ideas for preschool to post 16


Inspire your students, making your teaching more effective and memorable by experiencing the treasures of Hadrian’s Wall World Heritage Site first hand. It’s such a rich destination, with genuine precious treasures, evocative landscapes from coast to crags, and astonishing artefacts. Through their handwritten letters, personal prayers, graffiti, jewellery, artworks and thumbprints, it’s as close as we can get to meeting ancient Romans.


‘Working with Volunteers’ – conference presentation from the T&W Heritage Forum Conference published

The inaugral Tyne and Wear Heritage Forum conference took place yesterday, and it was great to be among the 180 folk gathered to hear the launch of the forum’s HeritageACT campaign. As the conference had an industrial heritage theme, I’d been invited along to run two workshops on ‘Working with Volunteers’, following the great success of the volunteer-led Dukesfield Smelters and Carriers Project which I project managed during 2013-15.

Despite being up six flights of stairs from the conference hall (and the delegates having to resist the really quite lovely art that abides in Newcastle’s Biscuit Factory) about 75 folks found their way to the room I was in. For those of you that missed it, you can see the slides from my workshop by clicking here:

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It seems to have gone down well, on Twitter at least !

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great case study PLB tweet

Working with volunteers this New Year?

I hope by now that you’ve heard of the community-led Dukesfield Smelters and Carriers Project which I project managed between 2013 and 2015.  As a result of that project’s many and varied successes, I’ve been invited to run workshops on working with volunteers at the upcoming Tyne and Wear Heritage Forum Conference later this month and it would be great to see you there. You can download the full programme and buy tickets here

TWHF conference




Bronze Brilliance by Haydon Bridge High School Arts Award students


147 students from Haydon Bridge High School have achieved their Bronze Arts Award by creating artwork inspired by neighbouring Hadrian’s Wall.

Students worked with threwall face activities bannere artists to create portraits, inspired by an exhibition, called Wall Face, of portraits from the National Portrait Gallery showing the men and women who helped preserve and reveal Hadrian’s Wall over the ages.


Anna Coulson, Head of Art at Haydon Bridge High School said: “Our students have completely thrived through the Arts Award process and through working on the Wall Face project. It has presented such a brilliant opportunity for our students to work with a range of different artists and I am delighted that they all rose to the challenge! Huge congratulations to them all!”

Arts Award is a national scheme to support young people who want to deepen their engagement with the arts, build creative leadership skills and achieve a national qualification. Arts Award has five levels: Discover, Explore, Bronze, Silver and Gold.

One of the artists Haydon Bridge students worked with was Ashley Hipkin, an established sculptor who works as an assistant to Angel of the North creator hands on potsAntony Gormley. Ashley said: “We learn a lot about ancient civilisations through the objects that have persevered through time. It’s an exciting way for students to learn about a culture engaging with the same materials, skills and processes.”

It’s so important that children learn to use their hands, manipulate materials and express themselves through physically shaping the world around them, not just through words and 2D images. Getting their sleeves rolled up hand making things with clay and plaster which in turn connects them back with what the Romans were doing, that’s what excites me. I hope that my involvement allows the kids to feel what that’s like.”

The two other artists involved in the project were photographer Isla Jones, who is a student at Haydon Bridge Sixth Form, and Ruby Dale, a former student of Haydon Bridge High School.

Isla Jones said: It’s been interesting to explore the leadership side of photography, as I’ve not had that opportunity before. Sometimes when I do my own work, I don’t appreciate how much goes into it, all the different skills I need to use, but helping all these children plan their compositions, get the costumes and poses just right, is really helpful for me in evaluating my own work.”

Ruby Dale, who is currently studying Fine Arts at IMG_5776 (2)Sunderland University, said: “It was great to see the students’ skills develop over the short time – they were really interested in the different aspects of Hadrian’s Wall. 

“Teaching was a great experience for me, especially in my own former school. The requirements on teachers are immense and it’s shaped what I’m choosing to do in my own career.”

Wall Face learning programme consultant Yvonne Conchie said: “There are so many learning opportunities for all ages which can be based around Hadrian’s Wall – Romans are the usual subject studied by schools, but we want to show that learning right across the curriculum and age ranges can be illuminated by Hadrian’s Wall World Heritage Site.”

Yvonne continued: Information and classroom resources to help teachers plan lessons and visits across the World Heritage Site – for different aspects of the curriculum and for all ages – can be found on the Hadrian’s Wall website at www.visithadrianswall.co.uk/learning.”

Bill Griffiths, Head of Programmes for Tyne & Wear Archives & MuseuIMG_4913ms and Chair of the Wall Face Steering Group, added: “We are grateful to the Arts Council and to the National Portrait Gallery for their support in enabling Wall Face to take place. The project enabled all the museum partners across Hadrian’s Wall to work together for the first time to deliver a Wall-wide exhibition and we are delighted that the learning programme has produced a lasting and innovative legacy”

Culture Bridge North East works to support Arts Award in the North East. More details are available at www.culturebridgenortheast.org.uk.

Dukesfield Wins !

Fantastic finale for Dukesfield, winning Love Northumberland Awards Best Coast or Countryside Project, 2015

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The combined efforts of 200 volunteers, expertise from local professional contractors and strong leadership from local people has earned the Dukesfield Arches near Slaley, Northumberland a coveted Love Northumberland Award.

The 2015 awards were hosted last week at the Alnwick Garden by the Duchess of Northumberland, BBC Look North’s Carol Malia and Northumberland County Council. The awards celebrate the work of the schools, community groups and individual volunteers whose endeavours preserve and enhance the environment in the county.

It seems incredible that only just over two years ago the eighteenth century arches had trees growing out of the top of them, were in a precarious state and relatively little was known about their history and the importance of the site to the regional lead industry. Now, thanks to the enthusiasm of many local people, and a grant of £247,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the arches are restored and their heritage is secure.

Ian Forbes, Chairman of the project steering group, said: “This is a project that has saved an important part of our heritage. It was started and led by local people, and has had a great combination of professionals and volunteers working and learning together. Feedback tells us how immensely rewarding and enjoyable everyone involved found the project.”

Activities from Dukesfield Smelters and Carriers

Greg Finch of Hexhamshire Parish Council helped to set up the project added: “Five years ago, one of our parish councillors said ‘the arches could do with a bit of attention’; well they’ve certainly had that! The help & support of the Heritage Lottery Fund, our partners and our fellow volunteers made it all possible. We are all really proud of what has been achieved and it is a fantastic honour that our collaboration has been recognised by the Love Northumberland Awards. Hopefully it can inspire others to see that big projects don’t always have to be carried out by big organisations!”

Yvonne Conchie, who managed the multi-stranded project said “I’ve loved working with these folks – they really know how to enjoy their local environment. People walking past the arches got roped into conserving them, excavating what lay underground, transcribing the handwritten archive documents and invited to events. The volunteers have used the arches, the pack ponies and the history they have learnt to give new inspiration to their hobbies and they’ve seized the opportunity to share them with other people. I really enjoyed the printmaking, tasting the heritage recipes and watching the comedy play that they have produced. They’ve truly made the most of it all.”

A video can be seen on the project’s web site www.dukesfield.org.uk that tells more about the project, its impressive range of activities and breadth of engagement. Earlier this year, the project came a close second in the Constructing Excellence in the North East Awards, and recently was one of four projects shortlisted for the prestigious, national Historic England Heritage Angel Awards.

Angel Awards shortlisted Print

The Dukesfield Smelters and Carriers project was led by the Friends of the North Pennines in partnership with Hexhamshire and Slaley Parish Councils, has the active support of the landowner, Allendale Estates and is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the generous support of other sponsors.

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