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Thousands flock to award-winning Heartlands

21 June 2013

The Heartlands project in Cornwall secured more than £22m from the Big Lottery Fund in 2007 to transform a near-forgotten area of West Cornwall into a vibrant visitor attraction. In this guest blog, Vicky Martin reflects on a whirlwind period during which they’ve welcomed thousands of visitors and won multiple industry awards.

It has been an amazing year during which we have realised our dream of transforming Heartlands from a ‘wasteland to wow land’. We’re absolutely delighted to have won the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors‘ Project of the Year Award and a Royal Insitute of British Architects accolade. However, the biggest success has been the way the public have embraced Heartlands.

Vicky Martin, Heartlands CEO

Vicky Martin, Heartlands CEO

We opened our doors in April 2012 and were set the ambitious goal of welcoming 235,000 visitors in our first year – quite a target in the current economic climate and for a new visitor attraction outside of Cornwall’s many honey-pot destinations. However, I’m pleased to report we smashed that original target by 50,000 and ended up welcoming 285,000 visitors by the end of year one.

Whilst we were always confident we would  start well given the level of community support during our development, the most rewarding aspect has been to see people keep returning again and again.

The Adventure Playground is the biggest in the south west and has been a huge hit with families. The World Heritage exhibitions, art and craft studios and holistic centre on site provide things to do whatever the weather.

The Gardens, which tell the story of the Cornish Diaspora evolve throughout the seasons and are maturing beautifully. Our Red River Café, which celebrates the best of local produce, has become well known for great food.

Heartlands has also gained quite a reputation for events too. From our three-day launch which opened with 1,000 school children parading around the site, to the Flame Festival and Jeremy Deller’s inflatable Stonehenge which celebrated the Olympics.

Heartlands site

Heartlands has welcomed thousands of visitors

We also enjoyed the live filming of the BBC’s Mr. Bloom TV show and our first bonfire night which drew a huge crowd of 15,000 – there really has been something for everyone. Most recently we hosted Kernow Fest – a celebration of Cornish food, craft, culture and music which attracted almost 8,000 visitors.

It’s on event days in particular that our 19 acres truly come alive. Later this month we’re very excited to be welcoming the Green Cornwall Show which will showcase Cornwall’s green credentials. We’ll be offering green tours of Heartlands so visitors scan learn about our wind turbine, bio-mass boiler and rainwater harvesting systems on site.

Heartlands has really become a great family day out and we were especially delighted to make a shortlist of five in the Cornwall Today Family Attraction of the Year through reader nominations. We’ll find out in September if we have won but as a new attraction simply making the shortlist is a massive achievement given it is selected by readers.

It has been an incredible journey so far and I would like to thank all who have visited us, supported us and my team for putting in countless hours day after day  behind the scenes.

Vicky Martin is Heartlands Chief Executive

What do you think of Vicky’s guest blog? Have you had the chance to visit any of the events held at Heartlands? Leave your comments below of join the conversation on Twitter @biglotteryfund.

Want more? Read Malcolm Moyle’s blog in which he explains more about the Heartlands project.

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