Demonstrating rural relevancy

March 29, 2020

Rosie Thomas, director of business development at Northumberland National Park, feels as at home in the park as she does in the city – that’s why she’s so passionate about uniting rural and urban businesses through The Sill: National Landscape Discovery Centre

No matter which way I’m driving on the A69, I feel like I’m going home,” says director of business development Rosie Thomas, who grew up in a National Park but found she felt just at home in the urban excitement of Newcastle. So when she joined Northumberland National Park in 2015, it was almost a homecoming for her.

When Rosie was studying at Newcastle University, she watched the majestic Sage Gateshead being built on the NewcastleGateshead riverside and decided she wanted to work there one day. Ten years later, she was managing the appeal to raise £6 million for the landmark’s tenth birthday. Rosie’s passion for investment in iconic community spaces has followed her through her career.

Following her work with Sage Gateshead, Rosie came to Northumberland National Park as head of fundraising and communications. She joined the park just as the ground was breaking on its new flagship visitor centre, and she went straight to work raising more money for the National Landscape Discovery Centre. After the opening of The Sill, she was soon appointed as one of the directors of the park, having shown her drive and passion for community and rural investment. At the age of 35, she is one of the youngest directors of a National Park in the country.

“What the Sage Gateshead has done for music, The Sill could do for landscape and the environment,” Rosie adds.

Rosie’s love for stand-out, award-winning community buildings comes from the fact that bricks and mortar are just a part of the overall work they do. Outreach happens outside and beyond the building itself, making people think about things outside their day-to-day lives, and broadening their horizons.

The Sill itself is an example of true investment in the North East. It was the biggest investment of its kind, and the most significant investment from a National Park, ever.

Rosie came on board to attract funding for the project, which was funded by National Lottery Heritage Fund, the North East Local Enterprise Partnership, Northumberland County Council, and various philanthropic national and regional donors.

It’s through Rosie’s fervent campaigning for The Sill that real investment in rural business has happened. The purpose of the project was always to be for everyone, and The Sill has become a host for both rural and urban enterprises for their away days, meetings, events, and creative thinking.

Additionally, the shop in The Sill has become a supporter of local business, with more than
80 per cent of its stock coming from a local producer. Rosie’s projects like, ‘Meet The Maker’, have helped local businesses tell their stories, where members of the public could see how local produce was made within the park.

It is a popular meeting place for those coming from Carlisle and Newcastle, being the halfway point between the two cities. Additionally, it is a great space for companies to have away days, experiences, and creative thinking time.

There are so many opportunities for businesses and organisations to engage with the environment and see how landscape and productivity go hand- in-hand.

“We’ve tried to make things a bit different than your usual event space,” Rosie says. “We’ve added experiences onto every corporate package so staff can get out into the landscape and not feel stuck in a meeting room all day.”

The corporate packages on offer at The Sill include Ranger-led E-Bike tours in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Hadrian’s Wall, axe throwing, archery, an invisible maze, and guided walks – all with a delicious buffet lunch, top- quality equipment and a flexible meeting space.

“The Sill is the perfect place to get some space to think – natural surroundings have been proven to encourage creative thinking. While we have super- fast broadband, many companies like to take the chance of a digital detox; they turn off all phones and laptops on arrival,” Rosie adds.

On top of arranging corporate away-days at The Sill, companies have plenty of opportunities to give back to the environment through Northumberland National Park. Corporations have helped maintain the footpaths of Hadrian’s Wall, painted fences, and helped conserve rare flower species – all of which makes a real difference to the environment and landscape of the North East.

Rosie continues: “Corporate volunteering is a chance for employees to have a bit of a break away from their normal work surroundings, get a digital detox if they want, and give back to the environment. They will often see an impact of their work, which brings environmental conservation from just a talking point to a real thing they can see and experience.”

The director of business development believes The Sill is the perfect place for all businesses to reach their potential:

“The LEP and North East Chamber of Commerce have held meetings at The Sill as it proves their commitment to the rural economy – urban and rural businesses have to be in-sync for the North East to thrive.

“We’re here to prove that rural is relevant, rural is high-quality, and rural is innovative.”

The Sill
For more information on the corporate offering of The Sill, contact:

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