On the invitation of Lady Sarah Nicholson, a trustee of the Auckland Castle Trust and County Durham Community Foundation (CDCF), the Lord Mayor spent the day meeting with beneficiaries from both charities and touring key sites around the region, including Durham Cathedral.

Those in attendance at his first port of call, Auckland Castle, Bishop Auckland, included representatives from Community Interest Company and samba group, Jack Drum Arts; Monkfish Productions CIC, which makes life-sized, anatomically correct cloth people as a learning resource; Café JJ, Darlington, which is run by volunteers with learning disabilities and personal safety campaign, One Punch North East.

They, along with Learning Working Earning Apprentice, Daniel Wolstencroft, are among more than 12,000 community groups and individuals to have benefited from CDCF grants over the past 21 years, which now total more than £30m.

Barbara Gubbins, CEO of County Durham Community Foundation said:  “We are delighted to welcome Alderman the Lord Mountevans to County Durham and highlight some of the projects we have been able to support through our donor funds. Local philanthropy has been critical to the growth of community projects and the people of our area and it’s fantastic to be able to share that with him.”

Also present were members of the 1st St. Helen Auckland Scout Group and St John’s ‘Youthy Project,’ who both make regular use of Auckland Castle’s community outreach activities and acres of grounds, as well as Ian Graham, who says volunteering at the venue has helped give his life a new sense of purpose after spending more than two years unemployed.

Michele Armstrong, Head of Volunteering and Communities at the Auckland Castle Trust, said: “We work closely with countless individuals, community groups and youth organisations across Bishop Auckland and the wider County Durham area, offering exciting ways for them to engage with heritage and to develop different interests and skill sets.

“It is extremely rewarding to see the positive impact this can have on those involved and I am pleased that The Lord Mayor of the City of London was able to see this for himself.”

While in Bishop Auckland The Lord Mayor, who supports and promotes the UK’s financial and professional services, was taken on a tour of the historic Auckland Castle by city financier and Chair of the Auckland Castle Trust, Jonathan Ruffer.

Jonathan Ruffer, founder of investment firm Ruffer LLP, is aiming to transform the town into a faith, art and heritage destination of international significance by investing around £100m in the Castle and its sister site Eleven Arches, home to live action show Kynren, which the Lord Mayor also took the time to visit.

Anne-Isabelle Daulon, CEO of Eleven Arches, said: “As a nationally acclaimed show, we are both proud and delighted to showcase the sheer size and scale of Kynren by Eleven Arches to the Lord Mayor of the City of London.  We are keen for visitors to travel from all corners of the UK to see the performance, which is the culmination of the sheer dedication and enthusiasm of our 1,000 cast and crew of volunteer “Archers”, and hope that the Lord Mayor will take our message to the nation’s capital city.”

From Bishop Auckland the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress were taken north for a tour of the historic Durham Cathedral and its new £10.9m Open Treasures exhibition, which gives visitors access to previously hidden spaces within the Cathedral’s magnificent Claustral buildings.

The Very Reverend Andrew Tremett, Dean of Durham, said: “It was wonderful to welcome the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress to Durham Cathedral and our new Open Treasure exhibition experience, which has just opened.

“Aside from opening up our beautiful monastic spaces, Open Treasure also brings together a whole community of staff and volunteers who are keen to share the history of Durham Cathedral and the Christian Faith here in North East England with our visitors.

“And Open Treasure brings with it the opportunity to raise vital funds for the upkeep and maintenance of the free entry policy for the Cathedral itself, which is the ultimate Open Treasure.”

Before their departure the civic party were also able to meet with members of the Sea Cadets on the River Wear.

Speaking of his visit, the Lord Mayor said: “I have heard many great things about how investment in County Durham is transforming the lives of people in the community and it was fantastic to see the work in Bishop Auckland and Durham city for myself.

“I hope that my visit raises awareness of these great initiatives and would like to congratulate everyone involved for their success so far.”

For more information about County Durham Community Foundation visit www.cdcf.org.uk and for Auckland Castle Trust log on to www.aucklandcastle.org.

Further details about Kynren by Eleven Arches is available at www.elevenarches.org  and for Durham Cathedral www.durhamcath