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Accessing Aidan Project scoops prestigious Bowland Award

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The Bowland Award held by Reverend Louise Taylor-Kenyon of St Aidan’s Parish Church, Bamburgh and Patrick Norris, Chair of the Northumberland Coast AONB Partnership

Photo: Rachel Norris

Our Accessing Aidan Project won the coveted Bowland Award at the National Association for Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty annual conference in Lancaster last month

Our Accessing Aidan Project won the coveted Bowland Award at the National Association for Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty annual conference in Lancaster last month. The project created a modern-day ossuary in the crypt of St. Aidan’s Church in Bamburgh.

Accessing Aidan beat off strong competition from fellow finalists, the Kent Downs and the Forest of Bowland Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) to win The Bowland Award, a hen harrier sculpture in bronze, which is awarded annually for the best project, best practice or outstanding contribution to the wellbeing of Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Accessing Aidan is a remarkable partnership project. Together with Bamburgh Heritage Trust, St. Aidan’s Parochial Church Council and Durham University we worked to reopen the beautiful 12th century crypt at St Aidan’s to the public once again and create a digital ossuary telling the stories of 120 skeletons from the Bowl Hole cemetery in Bamburgh. The crypt is open daily and the digital ossuary can be accessed from . The project was funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund with support from Northumberland County Council.

Presenting the award, Phillip Hygate, Chair of the National Association for AONB said “‘Many congratulations to the Accessing Aidan team on their Bowland Award win. The project is an exemplar of community engagement, with local people coming together to shape and deliver the project. What is most impressive is the legacy of the initial work. The ossuary in the crypt of St Aidan’s Church will enable many people to engage with the incredible history of the local area and the people who came from far and wide to build the community we see represented. The use of technology to bring the project to life and enable people from across the world to learn about this hidden, but significant history, is an important aspect too. It is wonderful to see both the commitment of the team, but also the ongoing pride from local community volunteers in sharing the unique history of this special place. ‘”

In accepting the award in Lancaster, on behalf of the project, our Chairman Patrick Norris said “It is wonderful to see the achievements of this fantastic project at a national level. There is such a depth of work and a range of high-quality projects being carried out by small teams in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty across the country, yet still, Accessing Aidan shone out as an exemplar project. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Jessica Turner in particular, and the rest of the project team, for delivering such a remarkable project in a short period of time. Jessica has left the AONB staff team but her legacy will live on in Bamburgh and with this project.”

We were keen to enable this project to tell the story of just how significant Bamburgh and this part of the Northumberland coast was 1400 years ago. The capital of the most powerful British Kingdom, people travelled from as far afield as Northern Africa and Scandinavia to visit, live and work and enjoy its treasures. Without King Oswald calling St Aidan to Bamburgh in 635AD and founding his first church here, we would not have St Cuthbert, the Lindisfarne Gospels or even Durham Cathedral. The ecclesiastical heritage of the northeast of England, that is celebrated internationally, all stems from Aidan and his first church at Bamburgh.

To find out more about the Accessing Project visit

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The Bowland Award

Photo: Rachel Norris