A THREE-year campaign aimed at attracting tourists into spending more than £6.5m in County Durham has been launched with the creation of stone-age inspired hill art.

Visit County Durham, the team behind the campaign, made a giant boot and bike out of human volunteers on a Weardale hillside to formally mark the start of the tourism boost campaign.

The aim is to attract more visitors to County Durham from around the UK and encourage them to spend longer in the county.

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The £650,000 campaign, which has been funded by Visit England and County Durham businesses, will start with promoting the county for walking and cycling, especially in the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) where the launch event was held.

Melanie Sensicle, chief executive of Visit County Durham, said tourism makes up 10 per cent of the County Durham economy with around 650 accommodation based businesses and more than 80 visitor attractions across the area.

She said: “This is the first time there has been a campaign like this for County Durham and we hope it hope it persuades even more people that Durham is a perfect place for a walking or cycling break.

“We want to encourage people to initially visit us and then stay longer.

“More than 11,000 jobs in County Durham rely on tourism, it is very important that we make people realise just how wonderful a place this is.”

The campaign is being supported by the North Pennines AONB Partnership, Hamsterley Forest, Northumbrian Water, Durham Heritage Coast Partnership and Dalton Park as well as 70 smaller businesses.

The giant boot and bike, which were inspired by famous chalk figures in southern England, were created by Lanchester-based artist Robert Tregoning.

Shane Harris from the North Pennines AONB Partnership said the area is rich in walking and cycling routes with many farmers turning their homes into holiday accommodation.

He said: “The Durham Dales are a stunning landscape of open heather moors, dramatic dales, tumbling upland rivers and waterfalls, colourful hay meadows, fantastic birds and stone-built villages.”

For more information on the campaign and the 120 walking and cycling routes featured in it, visit thisisdurham.com/outdoors