North East Connected

The great outdoors adventure that’s just a click away…

A RURAL paradise for adventure lovers is attracting new visitors from across the North East, thanks to regional business support experts, NBSL.

Nestled in some of the region’s most breath-taking countryside in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Weardale Adventure Centre became a word of mouth success after it opened in 2015.

The innovative County Durham-based rural business is now enjoying a significant upsurge in guests since adopting a plan to grow its online presence, improving its reach to potential visitors and helping it attract people from much further afield.

Weardale Adventure Centre has been accessing business support from enterprise agency NBSL via the North East Business Support Fund – part financed by the European Regional Development Fund – since its inception, enrolling on a digital marketing masterclass and then accessing funding to develop their digital marketing strategy including the development of new website, branding and a further social media masterclass.

A fantastic new brochure has also been created, showcasing the Centre’s unique offer.

Weardale Adventure Centre offers visitors fun and adventure, while learning outdoor and teambuilding skills. Catering for adults, schools and groups, guests receive the full open-air experience, with activities like canoeing, climbing, high-ropes and underground exploration.

The Centre was created when a former YMCA facility closed in 2015. Director of Business and Finance, Kay Sheppard and Director of Operations, John Noble, who had both worked at the YMCA, reopened it as a business, re-recruited staff and rebuilt its customer base.

Kay said: “It was a daunting experience, learning about things I’d never had to think about before, such as HR, finance and accounts, but both John and I knew that we could make this work as a business…however, we also realised that positive word of mouth was not enough and we had to build the business beyond what it had been before.

“We contacted NBSL and they helped us recruit Discovery Design to develop a fantastic website. We were also supported with masterclasses around digital marketing that really helped us become more adept at pushing ourselves online and suddenly we had the momentum to push on as a business, something that would not have been possible without the support of NBSL.”

The Centre, in Ireshopeburn, west of Bishop Auckland, accessed a variety of NBSL programmes to help boost its digital marketing, branding and design capabilities since its inception in 2015. With significant growth ambition, Kay and John have now embraced digital marketing to improve the brand, attract new business and increase awareness in the region.

NBSL’s Jonathan Barnes, who guided Weardale Adventure Centre throughout the grant support process, said: “County Durham is rich with innovative SMEs across a wide-range of industries and sectors, and none more so than Weardale Adventure Centre, which is a fantastic case study for rural business success.

“We understand some firms are put off by complex application processes, which is why we work with businesses to ensure it is as simple and straightforward as possible. We get to know people, understand the ambition for the business and help secure the funding or access masterclasses that will ignite their drive for growth.

“This fund will not be available forever. I urge anyone thinking about accessing support to get in touch and allow us to help as many businesses as possible reach their potential.”

NBSL relaunched The North East Business Support Fund (NEBSF) in 2018, focusing on funding County Durham businesses. The funding is open to SMEs until 2020, even those which have already accessed NBSL support in previous funding rounds.


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