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The Consett and Genesis Heritage Trail Project

This Visit Consett website is a sub project to the development of the Heritage Trail.

It’s purpose is to promote local businesses, as well as the Heritage Trail itself, to both the local community and visitors from outside of the area.

It is part funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development.

 

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Project Genesis

The project will establish and formalise a circular Heritage Trail footpath linking Consett town centre and its services/facilities to both existing and proposed heritage assets in and around the town. It will link the town centre via existing footpath routes through the Genesis site to the Derwent River Valley, Allensford Caravan Park and the Sea 2 Sea (C2C) footpath/cycle route to the Hownsgill Viaduct. In addition to improving/creating footpath links the project will provide signage for the routes and interpretation boards/information at key points/junctions, improve existing car parking and picnic areas and facilitate public access to heritage assets (the former steelworks pumphouse, the Hownsgill funicular railway) which have been lost to public access and awareness for several decades.

Project Genesis will provide a website detailing the route and other attractions in the town as well as a link to other local/regional websites to improve awareness and market the attractiveness of the town, area and local facilities. Consett has a proud industrial heritage but is also a developing sub-regional market town and The Heritage Trail will link the industrial past and its national importance to its current growth and potential future. The Trail will link tourist accommodation and recreation sites to the town centre, and through signage will encourage visitors and tourists to use local services. It will also provide opportunities for the increasing numbers of local residents to experience the local countryside and benefit from the exercise that its use will offer.

The Destination Plan and the Project Genesis Trust seek to increase visitor numbers and in doing so support existing local services and businesses and the growth of new commercial opportunities. The project will also link to the new ‘Consett Landmark’ site (an installation which should achieve national if not international recognition) a further initiative to put Consett and the Derwent Valley on the tourist map. Ultimately, the Trust and the Destination Plan have the same objectives which are to increase the attractiveness of the area to visitors, and sustain existing and stimulate the development of new commercial, job creating and town centre regenerative services and facilities. The project is one of a number of schemes which seek to enhance facilities and the attractiveness of the town for visitors.

The C2C cycle route is currently being upgraded across the Genesis site; part of the site has been converted into a new public park (Fawcett Park); a major art installation is being planned for the site to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the Steelworks closure; a new visitor centre/IT hub is being planned; and the town centre working group is currently planning the installation of town-wide free wifi. It is difficult to predict the impact of each of these initiatives on visitor numbers but our expectation is that the collective impact of these initiatives will increase visitor numbers by between 25,000-50,000.

Project Genesis Trust Grant Applications Icon Link to PDF

Fit with national priorities

The tourist economy in the Derwent Valley is embryonic, the area having taken several decades to recover from the closure of the former Consett Steelworks. The Derwent Valley Area Action Partnership has recently commissioned a Consett Destination plan which seeks to take advantage of the town and surrounding area to attract visitors and continue the areas development through enhanced tourism. The town is already a major cycling hub with two national cycle routes crossing through the town (and Genesis site) and is surrounded by beautiful countryside including moorland and river valleys.

Enhancing the areas leisure offer (for walkers and cyclists) will help attract more visitors creating attractive and informative routes linking with existing national and local networks. This will help a developing local tourist/visitor economy grow whilst supporting newly-established visitor services such as accommodation and restaurants/cafés. With regard to specific outcomes we would expect:

1.    To attract over 25,000 additional visitors to Consett and its surrounding area increasing visitor spend by between £0.5m and £1m. In doing so we would expect a further 15-30 FTE jobs to be created in the service/tourism sector of the local economy.

2.    The Heritage Trail will help to extend the tourist season in the area giving visitors access to areas of natural beauty in the spring and autumn which are currently inaccessible to them. The improvement in our heritage assets as part of the Trail will expose buildings and steelworks equipment which have not been available since the steelworks closed.

3.    The Heritage Trail links with other local projects that are all intended to create attractions for visitors and/or facilities and services for their use. We will build on the enthusiasm in the area which has seen recent improvement in the level of services available to attract and retain visitors – improved accommodation offers, new hotel development in Consett and the expansion in the number of high quality food outlets.

4.    Consett is in essence a market town serving a wide rural hinterland. The Derwent Valley, Browny Valley and moorland villages are all in a position to benefit from increased visitor numbers improving the opportunities to extend visitor stays, especially by those interested in outdoor activities.

Fit with local priorities

The project will assist in the development of a broader tourism infrastructure through the provision of enhanced recreational opportunity linking the town to the countryside and local services. The project will provide opportunities for cycling and hiking/walking. It will provide nature trails giving people the opportunity to appreciate and understand the areas natural heritage. The linkage with the former steelworks site will also give visitors and the local community an opportunity to understand the industrial heritage of Consett and the contribution the steelworks made to the industrial success of the region. Whilst new cafés, accommodation and other visitor services have developed over recent years they need to be bolstered by a longer season and improved recreational offer in the area. This project will enhance and speed up the delivery of that improvement in the visitor offer:
1.    We will improve access to the countryside and link local tourism/heritage assets such as the former steelworks pump house and its adjacent river frontage, and the Allensford caravan park.
2.    The project will create opportunities for visitors to understand the importance of the areas industrial history to its current economy and to explore the impact of that heritage on the landscape.
3.    The project creates a 6km circular walk linking the town to tourist/heritage assets as well as to existing national cycling/walking routes. Combined with the other projects being promoted and achieved in line with the Destination Plan the impact on increased visitor numbers and retained expenditure will be significant.
4.    It fits with the NE LEPs priorities in that it will open up heritage assets to the public/visitors which have been inaccessible for several decades.
5.    The interpretation boards and on-line promotion will improve visitor experience and understanding of the areas history and the impact of this industrial heritage on the town and its surrounding countryside/villages.