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We’re active members of the North Pennines AONB Partnership’s Tourism Working Group and aim to be a ‘Responsible Tourism’ destination so we were thrilled to receive a gold award for Responsible and Ethical Tourism in the North East Tourism Awards 2020.

The Cape Town Declaration on Responsible Tourism in Destinations ( Cape Town 2002) identified seven areas of focus and the following is an example of what we’ve been doing across these seven focus areas over the past few years.

To minimise negative economic, environmental and social impacts we have:

  • Installed a ground source heat pump at Slaggyford and a biomass boiler at Alston. The fuel for our biomass boiler is sourced locally and supplied from a company less than 15 miles (24km) away from Alston station
  • Restored and converted a steam loco, Green Dragon, to run on waste virgin wood briquettes. Green Dragon is now in regular passenger service
  • Installed solar PVs on our train shed roof. These not only generate electricity which feeds back into the National Grid, but are also used to charge our two battery electric locos, Newcastle and Carlisle, which are in regular passenger service
  • Reduced our use of single use plastic by providing wooden cutlery, cardboard and paper packaging and using plant based cellophane to wrap our sweets.
  • Continued to recycle glass, paper, card and plastic and our used chip fat is filtered and used to power our diesel loco!

To generate greater economic benefits for local people and access to the industry we have:

  • Strong links with our local schools and provide work experience and apprenticeships
  • A youth development scheme for young people aged 9 and over
  • A residents’ discount scheme for travel on the railway
  • Continued to use local suppliers for our cafe wherever we can
  • Continued to support local producers in our gift shop

To engage local people, alongside other stakeholders, in decisions that affect their lives and life chances we are:

  • Active members of the Alston Moor Business Association
  • Supporters of and contributers to the Community Plan produced by Alston Moor Partnership

To make a positive contribution to the conservation of natural and cultural heritage we have:

  • Worked with the North Pennines AONB Partnership’s Plugging the Gaps project to plant species of haymeadow plants which are in decline, at our Slaggyford site
  • Planted over 100 native woodland trees across our site with trees supplied by the Woodland trust
  • Created invertebrate habitat
  • Run bug hunting sessions for families to teach them more about invertebrates and their importance
  • Worked in partnership with other businesses and attractions on Alston Moor to develop a programme for Heritage Open Days and Community Business Days
  • Created a Discovery Centre which tells the story of the railway and the industrial heritage of Alston Moor

To provide more enjoyable, authentic experiences for tourists through meaningful connections with local people and local cultural, social and environmental issues we:

  • Celebrated Earth Day in April 2019 and worked in partnership with Alston Moor Greenprint and Alston Moor Community Energy to inform our vistors about  environmental issues and ran craft sessions for families using recycled materials
  • Run trains made up of heritage locomotives and carriages staffed by volunteers who love chatting to people and telling them about the history of the railway
  • Have built a mezzanine viewing gallery above the engineering workshop so visitors can learn more about the locos and see what we are working on
  • Work in partnership with other organisations to celebate our heritage and landscape in festivals such ast the North Pennines Stargazing Festival

To provide access for people with disabilities and the disadvantaged we:

  • Always have an accessible carriage on every train we run
  • Have installed an accessible lift to the mezanine gallery
  • Installed ramps to all of our platforms and ensured that access to the carriages is at platform height
  • Ensured that access to our cafe and shop is level
  • Have run experience days for those with additional needs
  • Adapted our Santa experience so that those with additional needs can be catered for
  • Always provide gluten free, vegetarian and vegan options in our cafe and at our events
  • Provide volunteering opportunites for those with additional needs

And everything we do feeds into the last area of focus – to ensure that tourism is culturally sensitive, mutually rewarding and engenders respect between tourists and hosts and we think our reviews show that most of the time we get it right!

Our journey towards Responsible Tourism continues and if you’d like to find out more please get in touch.