PEOPLE HAVE THE CHANCE to get involved on one of the region’s biggest cultural heritage projects.

Historic Hylton Castle is being restored to community life as an education and visitor centre, through a Heritage Lottery and Sunderland City Council funded restoration project.

The project extends to the castle grounds including Hylton Dene, which is a local nature reserve popular with local people out walking in the fresh air.

Next Monday (20 November) people can help ‘Clean the Dene’ for others to enjoy, with a morning of activity as part of a regular programme of volunteering sessions planned to clean up the area, make environmental improvements and cut back undergrowth.

Sunderland City Council Portfolio Holder for Public Health, Wellness and Culture, Councillor John Kelly said: “What makes this cultural heritage project so special is that it is community led, and volunteering opportunities like this give everybody the chance to lend a hand.

“Hylton Castle and the Dene are much loved local landmarks, and these sessions will help us make some vital environmental improvements to the dene and surrounding area while structural work continues on the 14th Century gatehouse.

“Volunteering, accredited training opportunities and community engagement with local people, schools and families is as much a part of this of this project as the restoration.”                 

The ‘Clean the Dene’ sessions are being organised by the Hylton Castle Project Volunteer Coordinator Liz Shaw, who started work on the project last month.

Liz, based at the Bunnyhill Customer Service Centre, said:  “I’m really excited to be working on the Hylton Castle Project.

“The Dene is a huge asset to the community and we’d all like it to be a safe, special place for local people and wildlife to enjoy, so come and lend a hand with a clean-up of the site. The Dene is a big place though, so we need all the help we can get!

“You don’t have to book in advance but it would be nice for people to let us know if they are intending to take part so we can plan accordingly.”

The first ‘Clean the Dene’ session will take place on Monday 20 November 10am-12noon, meeting at Hylton Dene play area car park on Craigavon Road, Sunderland, SR5 3PA with further dates to be announced and posted on the website www.hyltoncastle.org.uk

All equipment and gloves will be provided, but please wear sturdy footwear (boots or wellingtons), warm clothing and waterproofs just in case.

Booking is not essential but please contact the team on 0191 561 8611 or email Liz.Shaw@sunderland.gov.uk for more information.

Further ‘Clean the Dene’ sessions will run throughout December into the New Year, with opportunities for practical, accredited conservation volunteering in the Dene as part of the project.

For volunteering updates and more information please contact Liz.Shaw@sunderland.gov.uk or visit www.hyltoncastle.org.uk