New apps bring history of Alston Moor to life

Date: Friday 26th April 2019

RESIDENTS and visitors to Alston Moor can now step inside a historical world revealing what parts of the town looked like in the past and see it evolve before their eyes.

The town’s past has been brought to life digitally through three new apps launched by the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty partnership on Tuesday with the aim of creating a year-round tourist attraction.

In partnership with the Year 6 Flinty Fell ICT class at the Alston Moor Federation School, where pupils have been actively involved in the apps’ creation, the project has taken 12 months to complete.

Tim Crump, North Pennines AONB Partnership digital interpretation officer, said: “This project gets people out and around town and will help to extend the tourist season into the winter and throughout the year.

“The most enjoyable part of this has been uncovering so much history of Alston, a place I thought I knew quite well until hearing all these different stories from local people.

“We heard from one local waitress about a ghostly girl dressed in white in the moors, which features in the apps, among others.

“During our research we had a look inside the High Mill and the wheel, dating from 1817 — its in remarkable condition.”

During a three-hour launch event on Tuesday, people were given a virtual reality tour of the apps and accompanying headset devices.

Around £150,000 has been spent in the past year on the project, with funding from the Government through the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to test 5G connectivity.

Andy Lees, the programme manager who has overseen the project, said: “We have really tried and tested the 5G capability in a rural area and found out what can be done and what we need to work on in future. Its the first time we have been able to use this kind of technology to help people explore the North Pennines.

“The guided walks really open up the area more and it’s a more democratic way for people to visit, especially younger tourists.”

An augmented reality app called Ghostlines brings five historic characters to life as ghostly living figures on the viewer’s phone at four different locations — Nenthead Mines, Ninebanks Youth Hostel, Allenhead’s Blacksmith’s Shop and Alston town itself — recalling stories of families leaving for Australia and America, local entertainment, deaths and crimes.

ICT teacher Mark Fletcher has been immortalised in the Alston School Family Explorer app as a character and said: “The apps’ launch is quite exciting as we’ve been working on it since November.

“It’s been brilliant for the children and very inspirational. We’ve had to adjust the curriculum to shoe horn it in but it is rare for children this age to have a chance to work with industry so closely and have some input, so its been worth it.”

The third app set up by the small team of 12 is based on Alston’s old corn mill at High Mill, bringing the building, which last operated as a mill in the 1930s, back to life.