Exciting new era for Peak District as flagship visitor centre officially opens
Friday 11 August 2017
Castleton’s new-look visitor centre was given a celebrity launch following a £330,000 investment by the Peak District National Park Authority.
Mr William Tucker, HM Lord-Lieutenant of Derbyshire, and BBC Countryfile presenter John Craven OBE cut the ribbon to officially open the centre in front of invited guests and visitors.
Investment in the flagship centre will improve efficiency by reducing running costs and providing opportunities to generate income, which will allow the centre to move towards becoming self-sufficient from April 2018.
Mr Tucker commented: “This investment sends out a really clear signal of just how important tourism is in Derbyshire in general, but especially in this area. The Peak District National Park is to be congratulated for having the conviction to carry out this project in these most difficult and challenging times.
"It will also provide a fabulous community centre for the people of Castleton and I hope the centre will enhance the great community spirit that already prevails here.”
John Craven said: “I love this part of the world and the Hope Valley is one of my favourite spots in the whole of the Peak District.
"Our national parks, unlike in America, are not owned by the government. Most of the Peak District is owned by other people – not by the National Park. It’s involved co-operation with landowners, quarry owners and business owners. It’s a fascinating mix of commercialism and conservation – and it seems to work here.
“Castleton now has a fantastic visitor centre. I’ve been with my own family to the Peak District – without any TV cameras. It’s a wonderful place to visit and this is a wonderful, accessible facility – a place for everybody to enjoy.”
The Peak District National Park’s chief executive Sarah Fowler added: “This investment is part of a long-term strategy for improvement of visitor experiences.
“We hope Castleton Visitor Centre will develop as a community hub –helping to make Castleton more attractive for all, growing visitor numbers, supporting local businesses and providing facilities for local residents.”
Castleton visitor centre welcomes visitors of all ages and abilities and promotes understanding, enjoyment and support for Britain’s original National Park.
The refurbishment makes better use of space and increases accessibility, especially for people with disabilities, groups with special needs and families with young children or elderly relatives.
It includes exciting digital interpretation displays including an interactive wall – the first time this technology has been used in a national park – and allows Castleton Historical Society to showcase their artefacts and to share the village’s rich history.
The centre’s new Blueberry café uses local products and food suppliers and has created 12 jobs.
National park staff worked closely with the charity Accessible Derbyshire to develop the facility. Co-founder Gillian Scotford says: “Castleton is such a great village to visit at any time of the year and the only thing missing had been an easily accessible facility like this centre.
“It’s got everything - good parking, level access, social and educational environments, a quiet area which can be reserved and plenty of space to move around, all in a very modern environment.
“We’ve advised throughout the development process – on everything from accessible toilets and picnic tables to customer service and we’re thrilled with the results. Accessible Derbyshire has wanted to see this type of facility for a number of years.”
Maria Kenyon, chair of Castleton Historical Society adds: “Castleton Historical Society (CHS) has worked in partnership with the Peak District National Park since 2003, when it first set up a small museum dedicated to telling the story of the people of Castleton and the place in which they have lived and worked for centuries.
“This refurbishment has been an opportunity, not only to re-think the museum displays but to be part of a hugely exciting development for the village.
“The CHS and the National Park have a common purpose: to share their love of the village and the Peak District with the widest possible audience. To do so in a beautiful, accessible and exciting space is a real privilege.”
The opening day also included family outreach activities including stream dipping, well dressings, flag making and storytelling.