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Organisers praised for success of Heritage Open Days during pandemic

Published September 29, 2020 2.37pm

Despite challenges caused by the coronavirus outbreak, an annual festival which celebrates County Durham's hidden history took place safely and successfully this month.

Thorpe Light Railway Heritage Open Days 2020

Thorpe Light Railway during Heritage Open Days

The quick-thinking of the organisers taking part in Heritage Open Days 2020 has been praised for efficiently putting coronavirus safety measures in place to ensure this year's festival could run smoothly.

Visitor attractions

Thorpe Light Railway, in Teesdale, ran a successful event with thorough measures implemented to ensure visitors could enjoy their experience while staying safe during the pandemic. Volunteers at the railway set up a one-way system to allow visitors to get on and off the trains safely, with a limited number of passengers at any one time to ensure appropriate social distancing.

Beth Brown, secretary of The Friends of Thorpe Light Railway, said: "We had a total of 31 visitors, nicely spaced throughout the afternoon, all of whom enjoyed themselves.

"Our one-way system worked well and quite a few people had visited the railway and Lido in their childhood and were unaware the railway was still here so that was positive, especially as they said they'd be visiting again. We had a couple of potential new volunteers, and lots who said they'd come back next year with grandchildren and friends."

Virtual tours

Durham Cathedral held virtual tours during the festival where people could log in and learn about its dynamic history and life behind the scenes from the comfort of their own homes.

Meanwhile 90 people, some from as far away as the US, logged on to see the Mighty Wurlitzer organ, and watch it in action. The Mighty Wurlitzer is a fully restored 1930s theatre organ which is located in Howden-le-Wear, Crook, and is one of the last remaining Wurlitzer pipe organs.

Heritage Open Days, which this year ran between Friday 11 September and Sunday 20 September, is a national festival which offers free access to buildings, parks and gardens that are not often explored by the public, or that would normally charge an admission fee.

The event is an annual celebration of England's dynamic architecture, parks, gardens and culture. Each year, places and attractions from all corners of the county open their doors to the public and invite them to explore the unique history of the region.

Exploring county's history

Cllr Joy Allen, Durham County Council's Cabinet member for transformation, culture and tourism, said: "This year's Heritage Open Days event has been a success in a number of ways. Not only has the event been able to go ahead and welcome a number of people, both virtually and in person, to enjoy the county's rich history but it has been able to do so in spite of the challenges caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

"Well done to all the event organisers for making the necessary changes to ensure the safety of the public was maintained as a priority throughout, allowing the event to go ahead with the same success and enjoyment as it has achieved in previous years."

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