I’m Jess, Heritage Trainee at Heritage Trust Network. At the beginning of August, I travelled to the North East of England for two days, my task was to visit member projects in the area and write case studies ahead of Heritage Trust Network’s conference in NewcastleGateshead. The city captured my imagination as I wandered up from the River Tyne through the old Town Walls and out into the wide streets lined with classical architecture. With so much local appreciation for their heritage and creative initiative it comes as no surprise Heritage Trust Network are holding their conference here this year.
My first stop was Lakota Training housed in an old dock building in Stockton on Tees. Lakota Training was set up in 2014 to support people into work, and this people-centred approach has seen them grow. Their volunteers have cleared the weeds and created a sculpture commemorating the Stockton Railway, revitalising the area. Soon their new cafe will open, providing training opportunities, an income, and a lovely setting for a coffee.
Tyne Theatre and Opera House
In Newcastle, I was treated to a behind-the-stage tour of the historic stage workings in Tyne Theatre and Opera House. A master carpenter is currently restoring this incredible system of cogs, pullies and frames. It is the last surviving example and the team plan to operate it for historic demonstrations. Hopefully this will be part of the Conference tours and visits so that more people can experience this living history….
Lesley, from the Ouseburn Trust, showed me around the Ouseburn Valley. This diverse and vibrant area of Newcastle is home to creative businesses, a city farm, and wild deer! She explained how they work with the community on regeneration projects, keeping the area accessible and maintaining its local distinctiveness. She also pointed out where Hadrian’s Wall probably once stood. Walking tours are a great way to get around and Newcastle is so accessible – you can walk most places in 10 minutes! I hear we are working with the Ouseburn Trust to share these tours for the Conference…
Friends of Tynemouth Outdoor Pool
I visited Tynemouth Outdoor Pool at high tide when its backdrop of the North Sea is most dramatic. Opening in 1925, the pool is fondly remembered for being cold. Since the council threatened to tarmac over it, the Friends of Tynemouth Outdoor Pool have been campaigning to reopen it, this time with heating. Eleven years on, it looks like planning permission will be granted. All going smoothly we will be able to swim there within the decade!
Acumen Community Buildings
The next day Kate welcomed me to The Old Rectory in Houghton Le Spring which houses Acumen Community Buildings. They rent office space to social enterprises generating income and pride themselves on being the heart of the community. Every year a Feast held in the grounds, and Acumen run events to meet their communities needs. Anti-social behaviour has declined in the area too which is a great result and another reason to save our local heritage.
Tees Heritage Trust
My last stop was Tees Heritage Trust at Tocketts Mill. The Mill belongs to the caravan park, but the Trust restore and maintains it. Starting in the 1980s, they rebuilt most of the internal structures with the help of a local school. Seeing the Mill in action was a privilege, the cogs and levers reminded me of the stage workings, and I enjoyed learning about the Trust’s other endeavours. Their opening times are limited and it is quite far away but it is definitely worth a visit if you are in the area.
With only two days, there was so much I could not see. I am looking forward to returning to the North East for conference, and finally having a tour of the Victorian Tunnel. Dining in Newcastle Cathedral, meeting some of you, and learning about more member projects is pretty exciting too.
If you are joining us in NewcastleGateshead for conference this year, why not stay on for a few more days? After lunching at Ouseburn farm, I recommend a stop at the dynamic Grainger Market, and a trip to Tynemouth beach.
Visit our conference page for more details. I look forward to seeing you there.
Thanks to players of the National Lottery for making this traineeship possible.