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HLF funded programme 2012 - 16

Securing the heritage of the valley - thanks to Heritage Lottery Fund

The woodlands, grasslands and boundary features of the Churnet Valley are considered important heritage elements that need to be restored and conserved. To achieve this a programme of works across the valley with landowners and the local community was submitted to the Heritage Lottery Fund to be carried out from 2012 - 16.  The programme aims:

  • enable local communities to rediscover and engage with the heritage on their doorstep 
  • address threats posed by erosion, farming decline, invasive species, loss of habitat, footpath and towpath disrepair and lack of maintenance of the built heritage
  • provide a boost to the social economy with initiatives such as training schemes for young people

The four year programme was designed to act as a catalyst for communities and organisations to take action.  Some of these initiatives were eligible for the CVLLP Community Grant Fund. By involving local people, community groups and interested parties in this way the sum of the parts becomes greater than the whole.  

We believe that the key to success is to link the heritage of the valley to its socio-economic wellbeing, and focus on enabling

  • Community and industry awareness of the holistic importance of the Churnet Valley's heritage
  • Community involvement in managing and maintaining their local heritage
  • Increased skills and knowledge, allowing the community and industry to provide economic benefits from the maintenance and conservation of the heritage of the Churnet Valley

By the end of the project period our target the aim was to have significantly reversed the rate of decline across the landscape by increasing habitat connectivity and the condition of representative built heritage features. The long term aim remains that CVLLP is the impetus for an ongoing process of protection and enhancement that will result in a sustainable legacy for the landscape and its people.


Phases of the HLF funded programme:  

Development Phase 

The Churnet Valley Living Landscape Partnership was created by a group of organisations, each with specific interest in the heritage of the valley but also with an understanding of the benefits to be gained from a holistic approach. As such the initial proposals identified a number of draft activities or projects that would be undertaken toward achieving the individual and combined aims and objectives

Summary of proposed projects at phase 1.

Heritage Lottery Heading

Project identified

Conserving or Restoring

Helping set up woodland business to support habitat management and restoration of neglected holdings


Restoration of 30ha of conifer woodland at Tittesworth Reservoir to mix heathland and broadleaved habitats


Vegetation management along the Caldon Canal to improve woodland fringe habitats


Grazing study to assess the potential to increase grassland habitats in positive conservation management


Restoration of 5km of dry-stone walls and 1km of hedges


Conservation of 0.5km of historic tracks; conservation of three built heritage features along those tracks

Increasing Community Participation

Delegated grant fund to support community activities to improve, celebrate and research their built and natural heritage


Diversification training and other activities.


Youth engagement activities


Community events and related equipment

Access & Learning

Re-creation of Leek Town to Tittesworth historic route


Uttoxeter and Caldon canals access/towpath improvements to targeted rights of way


RoW Improvements programme


Development of interpretation, laying out of routes for new trails.


Creation of a new bird hide at Rudyard Reservoir


Improved interpretation at Consall Nature Park


Implementation of budgetary allowance for sustainable transport in the valley


Upgrade to facilities at Coombes Valley (RSPB) Nature Reserve


Interpretation materials at Cheddleton Station and at Leekbrook Junction signal box


Implementation of Churnet Valley interpretation strategy


Development of a programme of events and other informal learning activities about the area, as well as co-ordinated formal learning including Key Stage 2 teacher’s pack on the valley


Creation of a comprehensive guide to the Churnet Valley in print and web-based media

Training and skills

Refurbishment of the redundant barn at Lafarge as a rural learning centre


Delivery of countryside accredited training package


Agricultural heritage apprenticeship programme


Short courses for youth and community groups

Status of development phase project proposals to final submission

The loss of Severn Trent Water's Tittesworth Reservoir projects, together with support funding, at a very early stage resulted in the unavoidable removal of the conifer to broadleaf project under the heritage theme and the Leek to Tittesworth trail from the access and learning theme. However, these losses prompted the addition of:

  • a headwaters protection project, which is the only project directly related to water quality
  • an increase in the scope of the sustainable woodland project along the canal
  • an Access for All project between The Boat Inn and Cheddleton Flint Mill

The feasibility study for the conversion of the redundant barn at Lafarge to a Rural Learning Facility brought out a number of building issues that resulted in costs escalating from the original estimates by more than 150% to £470,000. The Partnership Board and the Heritage Lottery Monitor agreed that this proportion of the overall programme was too high. Also the development phase had resulted in the knowledge that other sites would be suitable for some training, including the Coombes Valley resource, and that the preferred delivery for the vast majority of practical training and events would be in-situ and mostly outdoors. In order not to lose resources it was agreed to abandon this project (at least temporarily and against this budget) and to concentrate available resource directly upon the community and heritage of the valley.

The Rights of Way Audit undertaken during the research phase of our project resulted in some interesting findings; with more than 30 existing promoted routes within the valley and the condition of these routes considered by the County Council to be such that they did not require improvement, our Access and Learning Steering Group was in a position to make some fairly sweeping decisions. For this initial four year Churnet Valley Living Landscape Partnership (CVLLP) the greater part of the physical access work will concentrate upon the core access ‘spine’ of the canal and river towpath. The audit picked up on some new routes to be promoted as part of the interpretation project.

Delivery Phase

Work on the ground started in October 2012. Please subscribe to our email newsletter to receive regular updates on progress and opportunities to take part.

It is a positive reflection upon the initial work of the Partnership that so many of the proposed projects remain integral to the Churnet Valley Living Landscape Partnership (CVLLP) though many changed in scope and, to a limited degree, importance. While our work to create the holistic CVLLP has resulted in some projects being moved from one category and subsumed within another: i.e. while researching the “Implementation of budgetary allowance for sustainable transport in the valley” it became clear that we would only wish to create information, support initiatives and lobby others, because of this our Sustainable Transport Initiative now sits fully within the Interpretation Project.

During the development period, the holistic nature of our project solidified, taking the initial project ideas and molding them into a number of projects that clearly interlink.  These links work within programme themes, for example, the use of over-sized timber products in the Headwaters Project (Heritage) will be used to support the Sustainable Woodland Product Market Project (Heritage); likewise the delivery of the Accredited Training Package (Training & Skills) will be delivered to people taking part in the Canal Towpath project (Access & learning).