FAMILIES from across the North-East enjoyed a weekend of free fun and scientific discovery thanks to a project dedicated to celebrating nature.

Discover Brightwater, a £3.3 million landscape partnership which works to nurture and promote the rich ecosystems surrounding the River Skerne, organised three days of free nature-themed activities for North-East families.

The Northern Echo: Local artist, Liz Millions, led drawing workshops in Hardwick Park's yurt. Picture: Chris BoothLocal artist, Liz Millions, led drawing workshops in Hardwick Park's yurt. Picture: Chris Booth

Programme manager, Paul Black, said: “Discover Brightwater is here to reveal, restore, and celebrate life around the River Skerne, and that’s exactly what the Big Weekend has achieved for thousands of people throughout a fantastic, fun-filled three days.

“We’ve invited folks to come and share in an immense variety of free activities that help bring us closer to nature, from traditional woodwork, through pond-dipping, to walks in nature, and so much more – all to just help us all get out there and celebrate this fabulous part of the North-East that we live in.”

The fun took place at four North-East locations connected to the river’s history: Hardwick Park, near Sedgefield; Locomotion, in Shildon; Head of Steam Railway Museum, in Darlington; and Hurworth Burn Reservoir, in County Durham.

The Northern Echo: Picture: Chris BoothPicture: Chris Booth

Families were delighted by the extent of activities on offer, including drawing workshops with a local illustrator, pond-dipping, wildlife talks by a local wetland expert, willow-weaving workshops, miniature train rides, birdbox-making, traditional woodworking, bee-keeping demonstrations, guided walks, wood relief printing, pebble painting, giant soap bubble-blowing with the Bubble Whisperer, and lots more.

The weekend marked the launch of a new children's book created by illustrator, Liz Million, and children from local primary schools, about the legendary Durham Ox. Liz was on-hand at the Big Weekend showing families how she draws her characters, and the book - titled Billy and the Bull - is now available in the Hardwick Park shop.

A new sculpture trail in the grounds of Hardwick Park, created by local artists Lee and Jill Brewster, was also unveiled at the event. The new sculptures dotted throughout the park include a kingfisher, a dragonfly, a frog, an otter and other wetland creatures, all hand-carved from wood.

Paul added: “Discover Brightwater is funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and made possible by those who play the National Lottery, so it’s always very rewarding to be engaging the public in our work this way.”

The Northern Echo: Picture: Chris BoothPicture: Chris Booth

Between 3,000 to 4,000 people are estimated to have joined in activities across the four sites, including brothers Alfie and Charlie Richardson, from Darlington.

Six-year-old Alfie said: “We painted rocks, and we blew some giant bubbles, and we were chasing them and trying to pop them, and then we got our faces painted! Charlie’s Spiderman, and I’m a dinosaur. It’s been a lot of fun – my favourite part was blowing the bubbles.”