Over £1.8million is to be invested into a project to conserve a spectacular landscape in the Staffordshire Moorlands and bring a host of long-term environmental, social and economic benefits.
The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) is awarding the £1.89 million grant to the Churnet Valley Living Landscape Partnership (CVLLP), towards an ambitious £3 million programme to protect, enhance and celebrate an area of over 49,000 acres fringing the Peak District.
Over the last 18 months, the Partnership has produced a Landscape Conservation Action Plan for the area which consists of long-term aspirations for the environment and heritage, together with a four-year plan of community and practical projects.
The partnership will bring a fantastic range of benefits such as better habitat for lapwings and brown hares through wildflower meadow creation. Woodland will be managed for the benefit of woodland birds, and the wood will be used to start up a local woodfuel economy. Bridges, and adjacent towpaths on the Uttoxeter Canal will be restored. Work to restore the platform and signal box at Leek Brook on the North Staffordshire Railway will also be a priority. The project will offer much-needed training opportunities such as rural apprenticeships for disadvantaged young people, diversification support for businesses and the establishment of a network of walking trails.
Guy Corbett-Marshall, chairman of CVLLP and chief executive of lead partner Staffordshire Wildlife Trust, said: “We are absolutely thrilled at this fantastic news. With its flower-rich farmland, plunging wooded valleys, wild rivers and fascinating industrial heritage, the Churnet Valley Living Landscape area is an extremely special part of Staffordshire and it should be protected and celebrated.
“We’ve been working with the local community since 2010 to develop a huge range of exciting initiatives that will bring major improvements to the natural and built heritage of the Valley, and offer increased economic and social opportunities for young people, businesses and visitors to the area, giving a real boost to the local rural economy.
“We want to show everyone what a wonderful and beautiful place this area is to live in, work in and visit.”
Jill Norman, vice chairman of the partnership and chief officer of Staffordshire Moorlands Community and Voluntary Services, added: “The consultation events that the partnership ran across the Churnet Valley area, from Rudyard to Mayfield and from Caldon to Alton, showed a universal love of the valley and its surroundings, as well as great interest in taking part in activities to make it even better. The delegated grant scheme will enable so many local ideas to turn into wonderful realities and we can't wait to help people get involved."
Reyahn King, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund for the West Midlands explained further the importance of the award: “Bordering the Peak District National Park, the Churnet Watershed, and the River Dove Floodplain this wonderful rural landscape is connected by the industrial heritage of the area. Landscapes are all around us and have been inspiring people for centuries, whether to write poetry, take photographs, go rambling, ride a bike or just simply to enjoy the view. With this HLF award under the ground-breaking Landscape Partnership Scheme we can help local communities such as those around the Churnet Valley actively get involved and take care of the natural environment around them."