He won 'unsung hero' at Visit England’s Awards for Excellence

Duncan Wise, of Northumberland National Park Authority, has won gold at Visit England’s Awards for Excellence, which took place in Liverpool on Wednesday 5 June.   

Duncan was nominated in the ‘unsung hero’ category which recognised his role in establishing Northumberland International Dark Sky Park ten years ago, the largest gold status dark sky park in Europe. 

Thanks to Duncan and the partners involved in the Northumberland International Dark Sky Park Partnership, Northumberland’s Dark Sky status has brought in over £25 million in revenue for the local economy but has also extended the tourism season in Northumberland, drawing in visitors from across the world. 

His win follows previous success at the regional North East Tourism Awards in February, where he won gold once again in the ‘unsung hero’ category.  

Winning gold in the regional awards, meant Duncan advanced to Visit England’s national stage, which recognise outstanding quality, innovation, and exceptional service within England’s tourism sector. After a rigorous selection process by industry experts, 48 finalists were named, of which Duncan was one. 

Duncan Wise, Visitor Development & Tourism Officer, has worked at the National Park for over 24 years. He said of his win: 

“It’s an honour to be recognised on a national level for following my passion to conserve our vital dark skies and support people in discovering how wonderful they are. I feel truly fortunate to work every day with colleagues, volunteers, and partners who share my passion for Northumberland International Dark Sky Park and I hope will continue to conserve these wonderful skies for future generations to enjoy.” 

Tony Gates, Chief Executive Northumberland National Park Authority, said: “Northumberland National Park is England’s most tranquil place, and our dark skies play a big part in that. Duncan’s enthusiasm and passion for dark skies has not only helped Northumberland National Park but many other UK National Parks to secure dark sky designation and encourage dark sky conservation. He’s been an unsung hero to us all for some time and we’re proud he has received national recognition, far beyond the National Park family, for his contribution to dark skies tourism in England. Without Duncan’s tireless efforts to get people to care about Northumberland’s wonderous dark skies, Northumberland would be a far less attractive and place to visit for those wishing to experience one of our natural wonders.  It is an honour to congratulate Duncan on behalf of all his colleagues in the staff, members and volunteers at Northumberland National Park. He truly deserves this recognition.” 

Northumberland International Dark Sky Park was established on 9 December 2013 by the International Dark Sky association, which is committed to tackling light pollution. It celebrated its tenth birthday last December, which was marked with a celebration event and dark sky inspired exhibition at The Sill: National Landscape Discovery Centre. 

More recently, a poll by Jessops named Northumberland National Park, the best place in the UK to stargaze. 

Tourism plays a vital role in England’s economy, supporting countless small-to-medium-sized enterprises and employing millions of people. In 2022 alone, domestic visitor spending amounted to £66 billion, underscoring the industry’s significance. 

The VisitEngland Awards for Excellence ceremony took place on Wednesday 5 June at the Rum Warehouse, The Titanic Hotel Liverpool.