Killhope Museum's Residential Outdoor Learning Programme

A school trip down the mine at Killhope

A school trip down the mine at Killhope

Scroll down to the bottom of the page if you just want to watch the film.

As a kid back in the 1980's and 90's I loved traveling all the way up to the top of Weardale to visit Killhope Lead Mining Museum. To be honest I wasn't that excited by lead mining, or water wheels, or even underground mine trips. For me what was special was the taste of wilderness, of adventure and the sense of escape into nature that being up at Killhope gave me.

Killhope_bushcraft

Above: Weardale Adventure Centre put on a host of activities at Killhope during the week, including some very popular bushcraft sessions.

Durham is most famous for its Cathedral and its coal mining heritage, but they both belong very much to the eastern half of the county. The other half of the story lies to the west of the A68 which splits the County roughly down the middle, the western half sitting largely within the North Pennines AONB (Area of Natural Beauty). Certainly Weardale has strong links to the Cathedral (marble used in much of the building's interior was quarried at Frosterly) and to the wider industrial heritage of the region (as well as industrial heritage of its own of course). However, as the coal-mining-dominated landscape and increasingly-suburban sprawl of east Durham gives way to the rolling hills and moorland of the Pennines, a quite different side to County Durham can be appreciated. Nowhere is this more pronounced than at Killhope, which sits at the very top of Weardale and the westernmost edge of the County.

 

To be frank, being a kid in the 1980's semi-urban Durham coalfield could at times get pretty gloomy. The glow of history and prestige that emanates across Durham City from the Cathedral and the University drops-off pretty quickly as you reach its ex-pit satellite villages. Of course the former colliery towns and villages have their own very real charms, but it's no secret that the closure of the pits left economic problems that continue to this day and disadvantage many of the kids who grow up in the region. As a child I was certainly all-too-aware of the harder side of life in the ex-pit villages, and I experienced on a daily basis the negative impact limited horizons can have on children. A visit to Killhope was always an invaluable opportunity to see the world from a different perspective.

Sunderland Astronomical Society introduce the schoolchildren to the wonders of the North Pennines' dark skies.

Sunderland Astronomical Society introduce the schoolchildren to the wonders of the North Pennines' dark skies.

S.A.S also did some nighttime water rocket launches that proved to be a favourite with the children.

S.A.S also did some nighttime water rocket launches that proved to be a favourite with the children.

So all of the above considered, it was a real pleasure for me to be at Killhope Museum to document the first ever week of their Residential Outdoor Education Programme. Paul Leonard, Killhope's Learning Assistant, organised an incredible week packed full of educational outdoor activities and new experiences for the children of Greenland Community Primary School. Greenland is an academy school in the former colliery town of Stanley in County Durham. It was fantastic to spend time with the teachers and especially children up there and to witness all the fun and excitement  of the week's activities. I won't go into too much detail about what they got up to that week as you can find out all about it in the film I made (below). Suffice to say it was a very rewarding, enjoyable experience and for me personally a truly worthwhile project to take on. If the film manages to convey just a fraction of how positive an experience the week clearly was for the Greenland kids, then surely it will help generate interest in the program from other schools in the region. Take a look and see for yourself, then please share the film and help spread the word about this fantastic and underused resource in County Durham's beautiful North Pennines wilderness!