January is a quiet month for NEWT as far as days out with clients go, but it’s been an incredibly busy month for other reasons.
The threat to tourism services in Northumberland, following public sector spending cuts and the impending closure of One Northeast, have occupied a lot of my time. As Chair of SENTA (Southeast Northumberland Tourism Association) and also Outdoors Northumberland (until last Monday when I stepped down at our AGM), as well as being part of Northumberland Tourism’s ‘Ambassadors’ group, I’ve been involved in meetings and discussions about where we go from this point on. I’m not going to go into great detail here, as there are many issues to deal with before the position that will be adopted by Northumberland’s tourism businesses is resolved enough to be made public.
The other big meeting this week was the latest NE regional hub meeting for Netgain (the North Sea Marine Conservation Zones Project). Along the Northumberland Coast, and in our offshore waters, we have some stunning wildlife and habitats. The Farne Islands and Druridge Bay are places that we’ve enjoyed so much wildlife with our clients and the North Sea itself has produced encounters with rare, elusive and iconic creatures on our pelagic trips for many years now. With so many different interests represented on the regional hub, there were always going to be conflicts (of ideology and interests, rather than personal conflict between hub members thankfully). The only way forward will be through concensus and that requires a certain amount of give and take by everyone involved. The Netgain team have done a fantastic job of managing the discussions, providing the mapping data that hub members have asked for and answering some often difficult, and contentious, questions.
I care passionately about tourism in Northumberland, and I’m sure that any regular reader of our blog will know my feelings about the North Sea, so I’ll keep doing all I can to help move both of those projects towards a sensible solution. Ultimately though, we’re a conservation-minded tourism business so I’ll be seeking solutions that have the best interests of tourism businesses and the marine environment at their core.
I even managed a couple of hours birdwatching earlier this week as well; a successful trip to see the Hawfinch at Mitford was followed by a walk across some exposed moorland where I was entertained by 2 Red Foxes as they bounded through a patch of heather like a couple of spring lambs. Invigorating and stimulating, and across the coastal plain of central and southeast Northumberland I could see the sea with the full moon rising over it. A truly magical moment that reminded me where my passion comes from.