Loving our Landscape!

Heritage Lottery Fund has earmarked £17m to help communities look after their landscapes - including the Staffordshire Moorlands landscape embracing the Caldon and Uttoxeter Canals.

On 20 May 2010 the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) announced 10 earmarked first-round passes* totalling £17m made through its Landscape Partnership (LP) programme. The programme helps conserve areas of distinctive landscape character and supports schemes that provide long-term social, economic and environmental benefits for rural areas. The landscapes receiving HLF support are:

  • The White Cliffs of Dover - Dame Vera Lynn's favourite Kentish coastline, made up of distinctive white cliffs and chalk downlands;
  • The mid Tees Valley - a 'lost' landscape between the Yorkshire Dales and North Pennines;
  • Druridge Bay - a former mining area on Northumberland's coast, characterised by mature woodland and Anglo-Saxon field systems;
  • The Belfast Hills - an arc of hills dramatically framing the city of Belfast;
  • Mourne Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty - picturesque mountains and heathland habitats in County Down which provided the inspiration for CS Lewis' kingdom of Narnia;
  • The Staffordshire Moorlands - a substantial part of the Churnet Valley bordering the Peak District National Park;
  • Meres and Mosses - a flat glacial landscape in the 'dairying' country of north Shropshire and south Cheshire;
  • Clyde and Avon Valleys - two valleys in Scotland's industrial belt of Lanarkshire, defined by ancient woodlands and orchards;
  • Avalon Marshes - low-lying, habitat-rich wetlands to the west of Glastonbury in Somerset;
  • The Solway Plain - remote Cumbrian wetlands originally shaped by the agricultural practises of medieval Cistercian monks.

Over the past six years, HLF has been helping protect some of the UK's most treasured landscapes thanks to an investment totalling £72m. 45 landscapes have been supported so far, stretching from Orkney's Scapa Flow to the Isle of Wight's 'Needles' and reflecting the wonders and diversity of our natural heritage.

Through the LP programme, key partnerships between public and community bodies are being forged enabling people to tackle the needs of their local landscapes in a co-ordinated and practical way. Dame Jenny Abramsky, Chair of the HLF, said: "Landscapes play a huge role in our lives and are often the backdrop to daily routines - but we mustn't take them for granted. This significant investment by the Heritage Lottery Fund is important, particularly in the International Year of Biodiversity, because it not only encourages people to work together effectively but gives them a greater sense of involvement and connection to their own local landscape."

* A Landscape Partnership (LP) earmarked first-round pass means that money has been set aside by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for the scheme in question. Competition at this stage is tough, and while it does not guarantee funding, it is an indication of positive support. The applicant now progresses to the second round, submitting a further, fully-developed application to secure the full award. This early level of strong financial commitment means that LPs can build strong partnerships with the assurance that funding for their scheme is in place - provided their final proposals fully meet the programme's criteria.

The Staffordshire Moorlands LP has a achieved a first-round pass of £1,999,000 including £100,000 development funding. HLF's overview of the scheme describes: The Churnet Valley, lying to the north east of Stoke-on-Trent, has an interesting mixture of rural landscapes and industrial quarries, limekilns, canals and railways. The scheme aims to improve land management and encourage better transport links so that visitors without access to cars can fully enjoy the 20,000ha area, which includes Weaver Hills and Ipstones Edge. Local people will learn new heritage skills such as dry stone walling and hedgelaying with the potential for both paid and voluntary job opportunities.

Landscape Partnerships are helping bring together members of the community as well as local, regional, and national organisations to deliver schemes which benefit some of the UK's most outstanding landscapes and rural communities. The application to HLF for the Staffordshire Moorlands LP scheme was led Staffordshire Wildlife Trust (SWT), who announced the news to the local press, describing how the award will enable the partnership to progress plans to launch a major project aimed at conserving, enhancing and celebrating the Staffordshire Moorlands.

The development funding grant of £100,000 will be used to kick-start a wide-ranging scheme involving a number of organisations who will deliver a raft of educational opportunities, environmental improvements and historical landscape restoration projects in the Moorlands area.

The plans the partnership is seeking HLF support for include the creation of a new rural learning centre, a network of walking and cycling trails and diversification training and support for local businesses. The grant will also be used to help preserve the special landscape of the Moorlands - for example through the creation of wildflower meadows and the restoration of ancient hedgerows and dry-stone walls, and it will also seek to restore management to many Churnet valley woodlands to benefit threatened woodland birds.

This initial development grant will meet the cost of laying the foundations for these exciting plans and will go towards the appointment of a project officer and extensive research into the proposals. The partner organisations in the project include East Staffordshire Borough Council, Staffordshire Moorlands District Council, Staffordshire County Council, Lafarge, Leek College, English Heritage, The RSPB, Natural England and National Farmers' Union, along with other organisations promoting projects that will benefit from the scheme - such as canal and railway groups.

Commenting on the award, Chief Executive of Staffordshire Wildlife Trust, Guy Corbett-Marshall, said: "We are absolutely thrilled to receive this massive vote of confidence from HLF. We believe strongly that the Staffordshire Moorlands is an extremely special landscape that should be both protected and celebrated. This diverse project will lead to major improvements in both the natural and built environment and will also boost people's careers, incomes and enjoyment of the area."

The Staffordshire Moorlands Landscape Partnership project area runs to the Peak District National Park to the east and encompasses Biddulph Moor and Consall to the west; north-south it stretches from Rushton Spencer to Alton. It includes the market town of Leek and distinctive landscapes such as the Weaver Hills, Ipstones Edge and Churnet Valley.

The Caldon & Uttoxeter Canals Trust was introduced to the partnership via our involvement in the Churnet Valley Forum, and submitted a number of the specific projects that include key themes of the scheme - conserving built and natural heritage, improving access and developing skills plus training opportunities in local communities for volunteers and other workers. British Waterways also submitted proposal.

Following are some of the initiatives that relate to our waterways which will be researched and costed during the development phase, to establish the feasibility of various projects and work. In turn these will become part of a Staffordshire Moorlands Landscape Partnership scheme that we hope HLF makes a full award to.

  • Conservation / restoration of Bridge 70, Uttoxeter Canal
  • Froghall Connection: walking route between Froghall Wharf and station
  • Churnet Valley Interpretation Plan
  • New heritage trails
  • Studies and assessments of landscape, woodland management and built heritage
  • Canal vegetation study, towpath access and condition audit
  • Rights of way audit.

This is a fantastic opportunity to drive forward projects on both our canals, and there is much work to be done. If you can help during this critical development phase please contact us.