, what they ate and the clothes they wore, says Alison, 52, who manages three visitor centres within the Northumberland National P
ark, attracting around 1.4 million v
isitors each ye
ar. Most come for family days out and others will be walking the 84-mile length of the wall, stopping at BBs along the way, says Alison. Children are fascinated about things such as Roman loos - you can still visit the remains of their latrines at Housesteads and they are quite amazing. We also get our share of daft questions too. One person in the middle of all this history and countryside just wanted to know where to find the nearest branch of KFC! So far weve never been stumped by a visitors question, Alison adds. If we dont know the answer straight away, well find it out and if its going to take a while, we call people back. And its this enthusiastic customer service that led to one of those centres, the Once Brewed Visitor Centre in Hexham, winning the title of Tourist Information Centre of the Year 2007 in the Enjoy England Awards for Excellence, the Oscars of the tourism world. But had it not been for a nasty incident, Alison, who has been with Northumberland National Park since 1979, might never have followed
this career path. I was originally a nurse, but had to leave after being attacked and injured by a patient, she says. I was attracted to work for the park because my dad was a gamekeeper so I grew up in the country. My first job was as a temp in administration, but it was a stepping stone to a permanent job in reception and then in visitor services. Over the years, I took on more responsibility until I reached my current position. Now I have the best of both worlds. I am based at our head office in Hexham, but I also travel around our three visitor centres, at Ingram, Rothbury and Once Brewed and still get the chance to go behind the counter and work with the public. Alisons management role includes introducing new innovations to the visitor centres, which now offer information videos, special interactive displays, play facilities for kids, refreshments and shops selling souvenirs. I think the innovation I am most proud of is bringing in computers so visitors can use the internet to find information, as well as make contact with home and send e-cards to their friends, she says. She and her team also help produce the literature availabl
e to visitors and they organise regular events in the park, from gu
ided walks with local people to visits from a Roman soldier character called Jefficus, who gives talks on what everyday life in the Roman army would have been like. Hadrians Wall can also have a spooky feeling, especially at Halloween, says Alison. We have ghost stories for children and moonlight walks - and you can imagine the ghosts of those soldiers still out there guarding the wall.