A 90-YEAR-OLD volunteer gardener at a former Catholic seminary which has become a popular visitor attraction has been named a superstar of the region's tourism industry.

Brian Harvey first went to Ushaw Historic House, Chapels and Gardens near Durham City as a schoolboy and today is a valued member of the team that looks after its extensive, picturesque grounds.

His work has seen him crowned 2019 Durham Tourism Superstar by Visit County Durham.

The results of a public vote were revealed on Wednesday as part of Visit County Durham’s annual summer garden party celebrations at Hallgarth Manor.

Volunteer gardener Mr Harvey has had an affiliation with Ushaw for more than 80 years, first stepping foot into the estate as an 11-year-old school boy.

The Northern Echo:

The Durham Tourism Superstar winner is now part of the historic attraction’s volunteer programme, interacting and entertaining visitors by bringing Ushaw’s gardens and grounds to life.

He said: “It is a great honour for me to win Durham Tourism Superstar and represent Ushaw.

"I’m delighted to win this award and spread the word about Durham’s best kept secret.

"I think that all of the staff and volunteers who have transformed Ushaw into a tourist attraction are all superstars."

Ivor Stolliday, chairman of Visit County Durham, said: “It’s a privilege to announce Brian as the winner of Durham Tourism Superstar 2019.

"The awards continue to recognise the incredible individuals who make Durham such a fantastic place to visit.

"Brian and all of the finalists are wonderful ambassadors for our county."

Michelle Gorman, managing director of Visit County Durham, said: “We’d like to congratulate Brian on being crowned Durham Tourism Superstar 2019. His passion is admirable and the fact he’s dedicated 80 years of his life to showcasing Ushaw is remarkable. It’s people like Brian who really make Durham shine."

The other finalists from the county were Lilli Broadbent, a visitor desk assistant at Durham Cathedral; Hannah Fawcett, lead visitor assistant at The Bowes Museum; Tori Goodall, head falconer at Walworth Castle Birds of Prey; and Peter Robinson, guest experience co-ordinator and general assistant at Crook Hall and Gardens.

Mr Harvey will now be nominated by Visit County Durham for the national Tourism Superstar 2019 shortlist, organised by VisitEngland.

In the last five years, all of Durham's superstars have reached the national shortlist and three have won the overall title including 2018’s winner Emily Hope, from Beamish, The Living Museum of the North.