Large Scale and Organised Events

Large scale and organised events have become increasingly popular throughout the Northumberland National Park in recent years, with many people taking part to raise funds for charity or as a personal challenge.

National Parks are very special places; designated to conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of their respective areas. These protected landscapes contain inspirational vistas and varied terrains, which can be very challenging and that’s why holding an organised event in these places is so appealing!

All of the UK National Parks recognise the positive benefits that organised recreational events can bring by enriching people’s experience of these particular landscapes and by contributing to the local economy. However, we also want to ensure that the relevant people are kept informed and any negative impacts, such as increased erosion and disruption to local communities is minimised or in certain situations avoided altogether.

To ensure that any potential problems are minimised, and that everyone (including organisers, participants, spectators, local residents, local businesses and land managers) derives the maximum benefit, events need to be very well planned, managed and include wide consultation. Such planning is vital to ensure the protection of the natural and cultural environment and to prevent conflict with the interests of farmers, local communities and other people using the National Parks.

National Park staff can offer a wealth of expertise and advice and can also help with route planning. We want to work with organisers of large scale events to ensure they are well run and provide benefits for participants, local communities and businesses.

If you are planning on running a large scale event, please get in touch so that we can work with you to help you have a successful event and help to look after our National Park at the same time.

Detailed information

Find out detailed guidance for event organisers of large scale and organised events.

Initial Research / Consultation

For those involved in managing the National Park, it’s about finding a balance between protecting environmentally sensitive landscapes and wildlife, helping to support the economic and social sustainability of the area and encouraging people to use the special qualities of the National Park for fun, recreation, health and well-being.

The National Park Authority does not normally need to be consulted about smaller sized events (less than 50 walkers or 30 bicycles/horses) as any potential negative impacts are reduced because the numbers taking part are fewer.

However, organisers will still have to undertake various checks to ensure your event meets with the necessary requirements. For example, commercial events, (paid for guided walks), are not permitted on ‘Access Land’ without the landowner’s consent and for any planned activity within or passing through a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), Natural England should be contacted. You may wish to contact us if your event is unusual or takes place in a particularly sensitive location. In particular, Authority staff manage the Hadrian’s Wall Path National Trail and we can advise on aspects such as footpath and site carrying capacities, catering facilities and appropriate toilet stops, drop off and pick up locations amongst other things.

We would encourage you to start planning your event at least 12 months beforehand and make contact with land managers/owners over whose land you’d like to run your event to discuss your proposals. Site visits and face to face meetings are much better than letters and phone calls. Reassure them that you have plans in place to put right and restore any damage that may occur as a result of your event taking place. Working positively throughout the whole process is of mutual benefit and by avoiding potential conflict and developing a reputation as a responsible event organiser pays dividends in the long run.

Wherever practical, plan your route to use existing public rights of way, paths and tracks. Think about appropriate numbers of participants for the location and avoid remote areas with difficult access or routes crossing fragile habits such as peatland as these tend not to be sustainable in the long term. An interactive map of the public rights of way network across the National Park is available on the Northumberland County Council’s website. The Authority may ask that before and after photos of some of the more sensitive locations of a route are taken (e.g. pinch points) as a record of the scale of impact of the event and to help inform infrastructure maintenance in the future.

Consider the time of year. Particular care should be placed around environmental sensitivities associated with bird breeding or lambing seasons (31st March to 1st July). Many areas of the National Park are subject to national and international conservation designations – Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), Special Area of Conservation (SAC), etc. Where events are taking place on sites designated as SSSI, then consent will need to be sought from Natural England. Northumberland is also rich in archaeological remains and care must therefore be taken not to damage the large number of historical sites within the National Park. Work with local organisations during and after the event to make sure you avoid damaging the site. Consider timing to avoid clashes with other events or seasonal activities.

Think also about the impact your event may have on others visiting the area for quiet enjoyment and recreation.

Think about how participants will get to the start point for your event. Check out local transport links and be aware of any potential parking issues.

Communication is key. Reassure everyone that you are serious about minimising the impacts of your event whilst at the same time maximising the benefits to the local community and economy.

Be aware that mobile phone coverage is patchy in the National Park and the use of phones cannot generally be relied upon as your communication method for an event.

Finally, be aware of the carbon footprint of your planned activity. National Park Authorities are aware of the climate crisis and have pledged to achieving carbon neutrality, in line with government net-zero targets.

It is vital that you have your planning and permissions in place before you promote your event.

Plan / Implement

Northumberland County Council provides safety information and guidelines regarding event planning, risk assessments, emergency planning etc through their Safety Advisory Group (SAG).

The group promotes the health, safety and welfare of everyone involved with public events. Safety advisory group representatives consider event proposals and may help assess the risks to the general public. The group includes representatives from the police, fire, ambulance and local authority, among others.

Even if you’re an experienced organiser of public events, you cannot take anything for granted. If you are in any doubt as to your legal responsibilities or potential liabilities, you should seek your own legal advice. The final responsibility will be with the event organiser.

The safety of all those involved is critical. You will need to have adequate public liability insurance for your event, undertake a suitable risk assessment and actively use it to plan a safe event.

It is good practice to develop an event management plan and event guide.

Promote the Countryside Code – The Countryside Code provides good common sense guidance for how people can respect, protect and enjoy the countryside and you should ensure that participants, spectators and organisers follow the appropriate measures in the code.

Encourage voluntary donations through the entry fee. This is a simple and effective way of allowing participants to give something back to the landscape and it also enhances your credentials as an event organiser committed to environmental sustainability.

Events can play a key role in helping people to think positively about the special qualities of the National Park and to act as ambassadors for the area after the event. If participants have had a good and enjoyable experience, they are more likely to treat the area with respect and stay longer when they return. Please promote your event as being ‘… in the Northumberland National Park’, and consider marking the National Park on maps provided to participants.

Tidy up / Review

Leave no trace…

Tidy up as soon as possible after the event and make sure you’ve plenty of helpers! Liaise with land managers.

Get some feedback from participants, residents, and land owners.

Check list

  • Engage all relevant organisations early
  • Obtain permissions (for example, from landowners, highway authorities and police)
  • Arrange appropriate insurance for the event
  • Ensure you meet Health and Safety criteria, including a Risk Assessment and a contingency plan for your event
  • Avoid planning events at busy times, bank holidays or dates when other events have already been set
  • Be aware that events may need to be cancelled at short notice due to extreme conditions such as fire risk or severe weather
  • Keep your participant numbers realistic and brief them thoroughly
  • Encourage participants to use public transport/car share and to park in designated areas
  • The National Park is a living landscape – please ensure your participants respect the privacy and needs of residents and landowners
  • Be aware of sensitive landscapes, habitats and archaeological sites – we can help with this so please us
  • Ensure participants are aware of, and observe the Countryside Code
  • We encourage all organisers of events to consider donating just £2 per participant to enable us to maintain the paths in the National Park area
  • Be aware of and sensitive to farming and forestry operations
  • Give something back to the local economy by encouraging everyone involved to stay locally and buy locally
  • Please encourage event participants to visit our website to discover more about the area
  • Remove all signs of the event immediately afterwards, recycling waste whenever possible and disposing of non-recyclable waste responsibly
  • Check toilet facilities are available and highlight them on your event map
  • All events carry an element of personal risk and must be approached responsibly
  • Get feedback from participants and local community
  • Thank and acknowledge those involved and affected

This list is not exhaustive – organisers should always be aware of and follow best practice, together with any statutory obligations. You can find more information in the Institute of Fundraising Code of Best Practice.

For further details please contact:

Lorna Lazzari
Access and National Trails Officer
01434 611538