On the trail of the tourists

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A TEAM of ambassadors turned tourists to help their bid to transform a former coalfield into a riviera resort.

Community chiefs, artists and business leaders joined a tour of East Durham to see the area through the eyes of a visitor.

The Drive Your Durham Coast day out was run as part of the Know Your Durham Coast initiative, which offers free training to help the district’s business improve the experience for tourists and boost their own organisations.

With the help of a Blue Badge guide and representatives from Seaham Town Council, Durham Heritage Coast and Durham Wildlife Trust, the tour took in attractions and beauty spots.

Starting at Seaham, the group visited St Mary’s Church, the seafront and the harbour, where they learned more about the regeneration of the town’s North Dock and the creation of a marina.

They continued on to Nose’s Point, Easington Village, Blackhall Rocks and finished at Crimdon.

Niall Benson, project manager for Durham Heritage Coast Partnership, said: “By stepping into the shoes of a visitor, they gained a deep understanding about how tourists perceive our coastline and in some cases rediscovered just how much there is to see and do here all year round.

“As well as learning more about the rich history of the Durham coast, it was a chance to find out about future plans for tourism in the area and learn how every business and organisation involved in the industry can contribute to making the area a more attractive place to visit.”

Durham Heritage Coast recently won the prestigious UK Landscapes Award 2010 and will go on to the Landscape Award of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg in March.

Lisa Wilkinson, from Seaham Town Council, has lived in the area all her life but was surprised to discover its hidden gems.

She said: “It was an interesting experience looking at my home from a tourist’s perspective.

“Some of the places we visited were familiar to me but I learned so much more about their history and significance.

“I’d never been into the church in Easington Village and the beach at Blackhall was a revelation.

“Even on such a cold day it was beautiful and I’ll certainly be visiting again in the summer with my daughter to see the orchids.”

Those who complete the Know Your Durham sessions receive a recognised Local Tourism Business and Skills Training Award.

For more information regarding visit www.knowyourdurhamcoast.co.uk or call 0113 252 8397.