Since Amble’s coal mines closed, the town has increasingly relied on tourism as its main economic driver. Amble has one of the biggest working harbours on the Northumberland coast, and the main catch in these waters is shellfish and lobsters which are sold across the UK and Europe. It has attracted attention from BBC’s Countryfile and TV chef James Martin. Amble Development Trust wanted to make more people aware of the town’s prestigious reputation, boosting local pride and making it known that Amble is a prime seafood destination right on the Northumberland coast.
‘Amble the Seafood Town’ was a vision created in 2013 through a partnership between Amble Development Trust, Northumberland County Council, Amble Town Council, Warkworth Harbour Commissioners, Amble Business Club and the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (NE LEP). The Northumberland Seafood Centre is a focal point of this ambitious vision for Amble. In much the same way as people sample local delicacies on a visit to Europe, Northumberland Seafood will become synonymous with the concept of a premium product from Northumberland. The quality, fresh, seasonable, sustainable and local seafood offer will eloquently celebrate the county of Northumberland and its ‘independent spirit’.
Building a local attraction
While Covid-19 set back plans to open the harbour and hatcheries as a paid attraction, Amble Development Trust was able to quickly pivot. By opening as a free, Covid-friendly attraction, the local community was able to spread the word about the exciting new attraction, encouraging more visitors to arrive as the months went on.
In the early days of the lockdown, people would often incorporate a stop-off at the hatchery to buy some local seafood into their daily walk. Now, as people’s work and leisure habits seem to have made a more permanent shift, the trust has enjoyed continued demand for its delicious seafood.
Even though the trust is no longer keeping track of visitor numbers, the success of the project is evidenced by the rising sales at its on-site seafood centre. Fuelled by a boom in staycations, and people taking the time to explore their local areas more, the hatchery has put itself on the map as an attraction worth making time for.
“More people having to stay at home and not travel abroad for holidays has been a real boon to the coastal economy,” says Andrew Gooding, hatchery manager. “We’ve developed some nice relationships off the back of lockdown, as people who might not have otherwise had the time to come and buy food have done – and have continued to do so.”
The future of the Trust
The trust is looking to develop its fish box scheme over the next few years, delivering fresh fish to people all over the North of Tyne community. The trust has also increased its own fish production and is now smoking fish such as salmon, cod and haddock locally. It is also exploring niche products and more sustainable ways to produce them.