'We're back to help you enjoy the great outdoors'
By Martin Paul - Senior Reporter
FULL services have been restored at the Bowlees Visitor Centre with the return of the information centre, indoor dining, the full reopening of the café and access to the exhibition centre.
But officials from the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) partnership, which runs the centre, report that while the parking areas are full with people heading to the great outdoors, relatively few are coming inside the building.
The centre partially reopened in April when coronavirus restrictions were eased to allow access to the shop and the café offering a takeaway service.
AONB visitor services officer Mandy Oliver said: “There were lots of people about but people were just not wanting to come into the building.
“It is better now that people can eat inside, but it is still a bit odd because people are not going up into the gallery.”
Also making a return is the centre’s popular Discovery Club, which is aimed at young people and their families.
Ms Oliver said: “At the end of May, we had our first Discovery Club since January 2021.
“We focussed on geology and went looking for fossils.
“We found loads of crinoids and brachiopods and some found little corals. Then we made fossils using clay and leaves.”
She added: “They all had a lovely time. The kids had all grown up but it was lovely to see them.
“We had about 12 kids and most were a core who came regularly.
“They were all desperate to be out.”
The centre is also planning on bringing back the popular Wild Wednesday events during the summer school holidays where children and their families can enjoy a wide- range of outdoor activities.
The AONB has taken on seven trainees in the last month, with many of them working on a Fell Foot Forward project aimed at connecting people with the landscape.
Trainee Jack Ravenscroft said the aim is to “encourage people to get out and see what is around them”.
Part of the scheme sees the AONB loaning out wildlife camera traps for people to use as well as working with farmers to better use their land for nature.