A HERITAGE centre has been refurbished during the close season. 

The Heritage Centre at Bellingham has taken the opportunity during the close season to upgrade its shop facilities with redecoration, new lighting, and a shop refit. 

Ran by volunteers, the Centre closes annually at the beginning of November until the start of April.

The Heritage Centre will reopen to the public on Friday, April 1, but can be pre-booked at any time for groups of 10 or more. 

Steve Gibbon, Chairman of Trustees, said: "This period not only gives our dedicated and hard working volunteers a well deserved break, but allows us to carry out refurbishment and project work."

"This close season we had decided we would invest in two new projects to enhance the visitor experience and improve our future finances and sustainability," he said.

"The first project involved the creation of a dedicated room for family history research and new exhibition space. This year we will be featuring a major seasonal exhibition on the Plashetts for the 160th anniversary of Plashetts Colliery opened on May 20, 1861, and an exhibition on the 40th anniversary of Kielder Reservoir, created on May 26, 1982. The latter will form the beginnings of a permanent exhibition on the three core industries of the area - Wind, Water and Wood.”

The second project involves refurbishment of the gift shop. "Over the winter, volunteers have redecorated the shop and installed new improved lighting. We have engaged a major shop fitting company and have had a bespoke design of modern shop furniture and fittings," Steve said.

He added that: "The shop is a major contributor to our finances as we receive no permanent grants of funding and otherwise rely on visitor admission and shop sales. It is important we make best use of it and keep it fresh and relevant."

The Heritage Centre's new venture, 'Tea on the Train', serves refreshments to visitors on two Mark one 1960's carriages, serving light snacks and drinks.