OFFICIALS at an outdoor attraction are hoping new facilities being created in the New Year will increase its appeal to families with younger children.

A programme of improvement work is due to start at Hamsterley Forest, in County Durham, with the demolition of the building adjoining the tearoom, which will be replaced with a courtyard including picnic seats, junior play area and sandpit.

The onsite classroom building will also be re-cladded and fitted with double glazing to create a more comfortable space for up to 35 pupils.

The Forestry Commission, which owns the forest, has drawn up the plans in partnership with Durham County Council and the Visit Durham initiative.

Alex MacLennan, the Forestry Commission's public affairs manager, said: "We are very excited for next year because I think these new developments will give a real family feel to the place.

"It is time to give the place a revamp. There is a lot going on at Hamsterley Forest.

"We are pretty confident that the changes will make Hamsterley Forest more appealing to people with young children and toddlers.

"That was something we felt we hadn't catered for previously.

"The idea is that families can visit the cafe and then they can sit outside and let their kids play safely out there.

"We want to make it a really good value visit to Hamsterley Forest.

Meanwhile, Durham County Council is funding the redevelopment of the current Wood N Wheels cycle centre into the Hamsterley Forest Cycle Centre.

The forest currently attracts around 180,000 to 200,000 visitors every year and is particularly popular with cyclists and walkers.

Mr MacLennan added: "We are really keen to make Hamsterley Forest one of the main attractions in this area.

"We want to make it an all-year round facility with an up to date cafe and courtyard.

"We are putting a lot of money into making this attraction more eco-friendly and more sustainable."

The redevelopment work is due to start on January 6.

For information on Hamsterley Forest, visit