BUSINESSES are linking up to bring the world to Weardale.

The newly-formed Weardale Tourism Network, founded by hotel owner Liz Curry, hopes to bring thousands of extra visitors a year to the valley, creating jobs and putting cash into the rural economy.

Successful enterprises such as the Weardale Railway and Harperley Prisoner of War Camp have already boosted visitor numbers over the summer months, and are going a long way to wiping out memories of works closures and foot-and-mouth disease.

Both ventures have joined the tourism network, along with existing businesses and organisations like Weardale Museum, Horsley Hall hotel, Cowshill riding stables and Bradley Burn holiday cottages, near Wolsingham.

The group has already played host to a group of Dutch visitors, who were keen to sample off-road driving routes.

Next month, 150 American visitors are arriving for lunch at Horsley Hall, near Eastgate.

A prime target for the publicity campaign is likely to be the Scandanavian market because of its strong transport and cultural links with the North-East.

Ms Curry said: "We wanted to set something up for everyone in the Weardale area to band together instead of working separately.

"We're just a new group and there's still a long way to go, but we've had a lot of successes and it's already started to work for us."

Lisa McCleod, who opened Harperley camp at Easter with her husband James, said: "We have had thousands of visitors over the summer, and they included people from America, South Africa and Australia.

"It is a good idea for everybody to work together and I think it will bring a lot more people in.

"This sort of thing will really put Weardale on the map."

The network is backed by UK Trade and Investment, the government's main organisation for helping UK companies to attract overseas business.

Tom Burham, regional specialist international trade advisor for tourism at Business Link Northumberland, said: "The partnership is working well and we're glad to be a part of it. It shows that there is a great deal to be said for working together."