THOUSANDS of people are playing their part in revitalising Bishop Auckland by donating their free time.

Figures released to celebrate Volunteers’ Week which runs until Wednesday, show that 1,700 people are already making their mark in the town by volunteering regularly with Eleven Arches and Auckland Castle Trust.

Both charities are working to transform Bishop Auckland into a world-class visitor destination in the hope of attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors and creating countless opportunities for employment, training and skills development.

In the past 12 months alone, volunteers have given almost 220,000 hours to help bring this vision to life, turning their hands to everything from gardening and sewing to unearthing hidden treasures.

Ruth Storey, who has been volunteering for both Auckland Castle Trust and Eleven Arches for more than a year, said: “Volunteering has given me the chance to work alongside and meet some really interesting, talented and diverse people from all walks of life here.

“I have made many friends, regained my confidence and put my existing skills to good use, while also learning new ones.”

Auckland Castle Trust, which launched in 2012, is currently investing £70m to turn Auckland Castle into a faith, arts and heritage destination. This includes the restoration Auckland Castle and creation of a new Welcome Building, Mining Art Gallery, Spanish Gallery and Walled Garden, complete with a contemporary glass restaurant.

In the meantime the charity’s 250 registered volunteers are leading tours of the Market Place and Castle, working alongside Durham University on two archaeological digs and greeting visitors at No.42 Market Place, which houses a shop, gallery space and Collections Display. Opportunities for hundreds more volunteers will be created over the next three years.

Auckland Castle Trust’s sister charity, Eleven Arches, is responsible for the open air spectacular Kynren which in its first year was brought to life by a cast and crew of 1,000 volunteers.

While the cast is mostly full for 2017, Eleven Arches is still on the lookout for a handful of volunteers.

For details and to volunteer visit www.elevenarches.org/get-involved/join-us or www.aucklandcastle.org/volunteer-with-us