Case Study

Touching the Rock

Touching the Rock

This programme helped visually impaired people from the surrounding area to explore the geological heritage of the North Pennines AONB and UNESCO Global Geopark through a series of visits, talks and audio experiences. It formed part of a wider project, Earthworks, supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

North Pennines NL North Pennines NL - In the mine at Killhope

In the mine at Killhope

What was done

Touching the Rock began in 2018, aiming to help visually impaired people engage with the North Pennines through the tactile subject of geology. In the first year a men’s sight loss group from Gateshead went on a series of visits to different places and found out about the landscapes, geology and mining heritage of the North Pennines.

Particular highlights included a tour of the mine at Killhope Museum in Weardale and rock climbing near Brough in Cumbria. The group were surprised by how much they were able to do, and how much they took in when they had known very little about the area and about geology beforehand.

The plan was to work with more groups following on from this but after a couple of sessions with different groups in autumn 2019, plans for visits in 2020 had to be cancelled. Staff then teamed up with Blind Life in Durham to produce some audio tours to enjoy from home with narration and sounds, which were sent out to group members on CDs and other digital formats, and made available online


In 2018-2020:

  • Group events run for visually impaired people: 8
  • Number of individuals who took part in events: 45
  • Audio tours produced to date: 2
  • Number of people audio tours sent to: 70


It was important to be adaptable and willing to just give it a go, and to listen to what the groups wanted and felt comfortable doing.

Getting to know the venues before visits was helpful, and working with professional providers and experienced volunteers.

Working with existing groups who knew each other’s abilities and situations and were able to help each other made things straightforward.

North Pennines NL North Pennines NL - Rock Climbing

Rock Climbing

Watch video

Mining in the North Pennines audio tour

Watch video

Audio tour of Upper Teesdale

I’ve really enjoyed these sessions, and preparing the audio tours when we weren’t able to meet. It has been a pleasure to work with these groups and they’ve taught me a lot along the way.

- Naomi Foster, Geology Projects Officer

I’d never have thought to come here otherwise, even when I could see.

- Participant

I would like to congratulate Blind Life and the North Pennines group for the excellent production of the audio CD. It was a joy to listen to.

- Participant