Tourist attraction brings virtual touch with new ultrafast broadband

With its origins dating back more than 40 years, The Forbidden Corner remains one of the country’s quirkiest tourist attractions.

The brainchild of Colin Armstrong, the owner of the Tupgill Estate, it was originally built as a private folly, with initial work carried out to plant a small woodland in 1979.

The site was opened to the public on July 23, 1994, when 100 visitors attended the attraction in Coverdale in the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

Set in a four-acre garden in the heart of the estate, The Forbidden Corner now attracts up to 120,000 visitors every year who wend their way through its labyrinth of tunnels, chambers and follies.

The attraction’s staff have taken the opportunity to employ new state-of-the-art internet connections which have been introduced to serve the remote communities in Coverdale.

They have launched a digital quest which aims to enhance the experience for visitors by bringing the attraction’s characters to life virtually via 5G-enabled augmented reality.

The Forbidden Corner’s manager, Darren Weatherill, said: “Our customer base is loyal and we get a high proportion of visitors come back again and again.

“We have always wanted to be able to offer them more keeping the attraction exciting and engaging, but until recently we have always lacked the connectivity to really explore this opportunity.”

Working with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s (DCMS) 5G Testbed and Trials project and the Mobile Access North Yorkshire (MANY) scheme, the attraction is amongst the first locations to utilise the new network, which went live across the north end of Coverdale at the end of January.

It is now being rolled out across a wider ultrafast broadband scheme across the county, which is being overseen by North Yorkshire County Council.

Mr Weatherill added: ‘The work we have done with the MANY project has allowed us to deliver a digital quest based on our previous traditional brass rubbing.

“The app uses the latest technology to bring to life some of the characters around The Forbidden Corner – whether that is our frogs from Froggy Fountain or the dragon, which greets you on arrival.”

Staff at The Forbidden Corner have been working with officials from Flo-culture, a partner of the MANY project and a specialist in developing audience engagement applications.

The managing director of Flo-culture, Katherine Pearson, said: “The 5G network allows us to immerse visitors at Forbidden Corner in a real-time augmented reality experience. The uniqueness of The Forbidden Corner will be brought to life in a totally new way.

“This is one of our solutions which will help the attraction to respond to the expectation that today’s visitors have – reliable mobile connectivity, and access to enhanced experiences via their own mobile devices.”

Mr Weatherill added: “We have worked hard with the team at Flo-culture and the MANY project in our off-season to develop something that we are proud of, and the feedback we have received so far is overwhelming positive.

“We hope those customers who are due to come in the summer months will love it as much as we do, and we look forward to welcoming visitors to experience this new development.”