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North's hidden treasures are opened up to visitors.

Byline: By Chloe Griffiths

The diverse but hidden historical and cultural attractions of the North-East were enjoyed by hundreds yesterday as properties opened their doors for Heritage Open Days.

It was the first day of the four-day national event which gives people the opportunity to explore a wide range of treasures which are not normally open to the public.

Buildings of all ages and purposes, from castles to mosques and from cinemas to town halls, all with a rich heritage, have joined the scheme which runs until Sunday.

There are 182 buildings across the North-East which are promising to bring history and culture to life.

The initiative kicked off yesterday with a variety of unusual and intriguing places opening to visitors.

Sunderland Museum and Gardens offered visitors the opportunity to have free tours of their vast botanical collection and various exhibitions and The Eco Centre in Hebburn welcomed in the public for the first time.

The 1996 award-winning environmental project is entirely built from either re-used, recycled or sustainable materials.

Those interested in brewing their own beer or blowing glass headed to Fowler's Yard, in Durham, to sample traditional arts and crafts.

Meanwhile, visitors to the planetarium and observatory at South Tyneside College had the night sky explained to them.

Other highlights from the day included guided tours of Sunderland Empire Theatre and access to an 18th-Century banqueting house, which stands in the wooded parkland of the Gibside Estate, in Burnopfield.

HM barque Endeavour at Castle Quay, Stockton, gave visitors the opportunity to explore the full-size replica of Captain Cook's historic ship while those heading to the Zetland Lifeboat Museum in Redcar could see the world's oldest lifeboat.
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Sep 9, 2005
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