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CVLLP 17: Interpretation

Project Objective

A strategic plan to interpret the heritage of the valley and the work of the projects:

  • to create a unique sense of place that people understand, enjoy and respect
  • to engage and guide visitors, and connect and reconnect residents
  • to raise awareness of special landscape qualities and the area’s rich heritage

We intend to grow the interpretation and dissemination element of the project across a number of disciplines:

  • Natural Heritage
  • Built Heritage
  • Socio-economic, training and skills
  • Access & Leisure
  • Participation & Learning

Our interpretation project will link the built and natural heritage of the valley and offer new and co‑ordinated methods by which the community and visitors can engage and learn about the valley, its heritage and its community.  Importantly we will also use the interpretation tools created to tell the story of the Churnet Valley Living Landscape Partnership and the contribution of the partners and supporters such as the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The main interpretation project will run through the full four years of the CVLLP project, with the website element maintained for a further two years after this. The long term legacy will be continually reviewed as the project progresses.

Fit to existing strategies and objectives

A number of organisations within the CVLLP partnership have existing interpretation strategies. In order to achieve maximum value from the interpretation project, we intend to integrate our approach with these where possible. The concept of dual-branding of new interpretation and modification of existing materials has been explored and will be fully exploited.

Comprehensive description of the project

 The interpretation strategy will be delivered via the following four themes.

1.      The Lives and Times of the Churnet Valley 

Objectives met: Learning, Participation
Disciplines:  Natural Heritage, Built Heritage, Socio-economic, Participation & Learning

By community engagement with long-term residents of the Churnet Valley and local groups such as schools and local history societies, this element of the interpretation strategy will achieve these outcomes:

  • Develop authentic content from local people. Themes under consideration include: Socio-economic history and its impact on built heritage and landscape; people who have influenced the valley, local skills & culture; the impact of land uses and management methods over time; historical information and perspectives compared with the modern face of the valley
  • Create a strong sense of place with participants and their extended network/families through participation by local schools and organisations
  • Interpret the Churnet Valley so that all those engaged in this activity, particularly school children and their families, understand and respect what makes the area unique
  • Add to the sense of place for those that access the information gathered by this project
  • Capture the progress of the CVLLP project using various media (photography, video, original art, recorded voice)
  • Meaningfully disseminate the work of the CVLLP project.

This theme of the strategy intends to facilitate sharing of knowledge, capturing memories and items/images that can be used to create learning materials, guide information, podcasts, multi media content and online content and resources.  The strategy will require liaison between local groups, input from partner organisations, events/open days.  This element of the strategy will be supported by volunteer groups and members of the community.

Outputs resulting from this element: community archive content for use across all interpretation media including online content, multi-media, learning materials, exhibition, in-situ tools.

2.      Discovery & Learning

Objectives met: Learning, Participation
Disciplines:  Natural Heritage, Participation & Learning, Socio-economic, Training & Skills

Integral to many of the projects, (eg rural hub food trail, participation officers etc) is the concept of Discovery & Learning.  In support of this, the interpretation strategy makes provision for liaison with the relevant partner when planning open days, learning events and learning materials.  This theme intends to unite and integrate the ‘Discover & Learning’ interpretation element of all the projects where practicable, as well as implement two specific dissemination strategies:

Dissemination via local primary children and families

Our strategy includes work with the primary schools within the Churnet Valley (there are no secondary schools in the area).  Primary schools are now working with the ‘Creative curriculum’ and also have requirements to include ‘Family Learning’.  An initial discussion with one of the local Head Teachers has resulted in enthusiasm for basing the curriculum and the family learning on the heritage and landscape of the Churnet Valley, as well as the role of CVLLP in protecting and interpreting it.  From an interpretation perspective this theme of the strategy will play a major role in meeting the objectives because it engages very closely with residents and both strengthens the sense of place and increases understanding of the area’s special landscape qualities and the area’s rich heritage.  In order to deliver this interpretation theme we have identified a requirement for specialist input from a curriculum expert as we will need to present the content in a manner suitable for primary and family learning.

Dissemination via professionals across Europe

The interpretation project will be the main way in which we will deliver information across Europe on the innovative routes we have taken to integrate ecosystems management for conservation with a heritage based project with socioeconomic outcomes within a Landscape Scale project.

Protecting Headwaters

The aim of the Headwaters project (CVLLP 3) is to demonstrate novel and relatively innovative soft methods of headwater protection, using materials derived locally as part of an holistic approach to management at a landscape level. This is a complex and challenging project and the Wetland Ecologist will be in a position to share his/her experience with wetland and environmental managers through presentations at two national level conferences and one European conference. Although the Wetland Ecologist will be expected to organise and attend these events he will be able to take others, particularly practicing landowners who have become involved in the project, and representatives of other partners whose projects have had significant crossover and added value to the Headwaters Project.

Discovery activities

The Churnet Valley is particularly suited to discovery activities because it has such a rich history, geology and biodiversity and yet remains relatively undiscovered with a lack of awareness among many local people.  This strategy will include interpretation of discovery activities including:

  • Geocaching, which has become a popular past-time, particularly with families and young people. 
  • Food trail – created by Staffordshire Rural Hub
  • Geotrail – created by GeoConservation Staffordshire
  • Woodland and wildlife trails and play facilities created by RSPB at Coombes Valley to enable enhanced experience and understanding of biodiversity.

3.      Celebrating all that is unique and special about the Churnet Valley

Objectives met: Learning, Participation, Access
Disciplines: Land use and management, natural environment/biodiversity, geology, socio-economic and skills

The Churnet Valley is a dynamic landscape characterised by a mosaic of habitats that have evolved through time by natural geological and landscape processes and the effect of industrial and agricultural developments.  The interpretation strategy celebrates this legacy of traditional skills alongside new opportunities for conservation, discovery and learning; strengthening the relationship between changing communities and their landscape.

Community Engagement

Our interpretation strategy makes provision for further events, open days, learning events (e.g. woodland workshops) and interactive engagement to celebrate the heritage of the Churnet Valley.  It is envisaged that specialists engaged in the project, e.g. Woodland Officer and Wetland Officer, will be on hand to engage face-to-face with the public and other stakeholders. 

Media engagement

The strategy makes provision for wider dissemination of information about the heritage of the valley and the CVLLP project work via engagement with the media.

Youth and Participation Officers

We anticipate working with the Youth and Participation Officers regarding engagement with youth audiences (CVLLP 13) and the wider community (CVLLP 9).

CVLLP programmes dissemination

The dissemination programme will be a tool, usable by the projects within the partnership, to promote and showcase their work and activities to the community of the valley and visitors - this interpretation project aims to enlighten and inform.

Sustainable woodlands

The project (CVLLP 1) is complex and innovative, linking the biodiversity element of woodland management with an investigation of broad, local product markets. We will also be delivering the Woodland Management project within an holistic landscape based project with equal emphasis throughout upon Biodiversity, the Built Heritage and Training and Access to that landscape. This approach will be of real interest to organisations that are increasingly looking to benefit biodiversity at a landscape level. The role of the Woodland Officer will be to bring woodlands in the Churnet Valley into good conservation management and to help identify and promote markets to ensure management remains economically sustainable. This is a complex and challenging role and he/she will be in a position to share experience with woodland and environmental managers through presentations at two national level conferences and one European conference. Although the Woodland Officer will be expected to organise and attend these events he will be able to take others, particularly practising woodland managers who have become involved in the project, and representatives of other partners whose projects have had significant crossover and added value to the Headwaters Project.

Local food and drink

The landscape of the valley, its economy and the skills of its people have all been shaped by a long tradition of farming and food production. Quality food and drink from the locality can be an influential factor in underlining ‘sense of place’, while strengthening the local economy and reducing food miles. The interpretation strategy will enhance the work of Staffordshire Rural Hub and Taste of Staffordshire to promote and encourage local food production, local procurement and the use of food and drink from the Churnet Valley in eating establishments, accommodation, catering and retail outlets.

4.      Churnet Valley end-to-end: the practicalities

Objectives met: Access, Participation,
Disciplines: Natural Heritage, Built Heritage, Socio-economic, Training & Skills, Access & Leisure, Participation & Learning

This theme deals with the practicalities of how to disseminate information to the visitors within the Churnet Valley, so that they find and experience the interpretation in a joined up way. 

Outputs: Signage, guidance, sustainable transport options, public facilities, promoted routes, walks, bridleways, geo trail, geocaches, amenities & hospitality/accommodation, leisure facilities.

Unify existing and planned interpretation under the CVLLP banner

To develop some consistency and help unify interpretation we will develop a brand for the Churnet Valley.  This includes a design style which partners and other approved organisations can start to include and adopt in their own interpretation. By the end of the project, we envisage this brand having an intellectual property (IP) value which can be capitalised via licensing or similar arrangements that will form part of the Legacy Plan.

Design elements: logo devices, layouts and artwork for deliverables, style guides & pre-prepared artwork templates for partners.

Content: full content for use online and in printed media, copy overviews and longer texts pre-prepared for partners’ use.

Items that will be delivered as part of this unified branded approach will include:

  • Leaflets, Posters & Notices
  • Books & Guides
  • Learning materials
  • Online information (web pages and social media)
  • Signage
  • Static displays
  • Event materials
  • Best practice in delivering interpretation to audiences that may be excluded due to mobility or disability

Ensure an integrated approach for interpretation

The web will be a main communication hub, significantly enabling greater integration of interpretation via Quick Response (QR) Codes; linking the themes of the valley with the interpretation needs of physical hubs and visitor gateways.

  • The QR code application, for use by the community and visitors to the valley, is a method to find out:
  • Where you are, what’s interesting, biodiversity, human/natural history and ecosystem services
  • What’s going on, who is looking after it and where you can contact them and find out more
  • What’s on, where and how you can get involved
  • Ways to engage, feedback and contribute knowledge and experiences
  • Ways to widen participation and engage audience that experience barriers to access

This novel approach to interpretation and information dissemination we hope will help reduce the amount of “interpretation litter” currently in the valley.

Key interpretation centres and gateways have been identified by partners as:

  • Cheddleton
  • Froghall
  • Oakamoor
  • Alton
  • Coombes Valley
  • Rudyard

The Hotspot Audit confirmed what many of the partnership already felt, that the story of the valley is extremely rich, but that it is told in a somewhat ad-hoc and disjointed manner. The interpretation project will bring this disjointed interpretation together in one accessible package and enable cross-cutting interpretation between centres and across themes.

Ensure suitable interpretation mechanisms are put in place to meet the needs of beneficiaries

Beneficiaries of interpretation have been identified as residents of Churnet Valley and its hinterland including Leek, as well as long and short stay visitors. Beneficiary groups will specifically include ‘hard-to-reach’ communities, low income groups, people with disabilities, ethnic minority communities, families and young adults, in order to ensure fairer access as required by the DDA and Single Equality Act.  Attention has been given to use of interpretation for education, leisure and community engagement purposes.

Given this mix of beneficiaries the strategy uses traditional printed and in-situ media as well as multi-media / new media.  It allows for face-to-face learning and engagement opportunities via events and specially appointed officers.  The strategy also finds ways to draw on the local community to provide content and add to the sense of place by creating opportunities and providing tools/projects to share local knowledge and the local culture and skills.

Online tools, including social media

We will produce a modern, easy to access web-based resource for the Churnet Valley.  The website will act as a hub and host a great deal of traditional information, provide downloadable materials, and embed/link to social media tools such as video (e.g. YouTube), photo galleries (e.g. Flickr), engagement tools (e.g. Twitter & Facebook) and information relating to sustainable transport options. It will be a valuable tool in providing pre-visit information to potential visitors to assist and influence the decision to visit. Information held on the web will include learning materials, downloadable guides, phototrails, audio guides, reports, pictures, events and booking forms, which aim to engage as wide an audience as possible, including socially excluded and ‘hard-to-reach’ communities. Specialists in the various fields of multi-media will be contracted at intervals during the project to capture progress and produce deliverables.  To facilitate social media engagement, a social management/support arrangement will be put in place.

Mobile devices

Taking into account the limitations of existing coverage within the valley, the interpretation strategy makes maximum use of people’s increasing use of mobile devices.  We will adopt new technology and tools:

  • To enable navigation from in-situ interpretation to relevant online detail via QR codes to the mobile-enabled web site
  • To promote access e.g. geocaching trails, phototrails etc.
  • To encourage greater engagement of visitors and residents via social media tools and the resulting viral increase in dissemination.
  • To reach audiences who may be excluded by existing/conventional interpretive media, e.g. people with visual impairment or learning disabilities.

Printed materials

Printed materials still retain an important role as an interpretation media.   Not all occasions or scenarios are suitable for use of online media, and not all beneficiaries of interpretation are online or using handheld devices.

In situ interpretation – signage, static displays


  • Marking entry points to the Churnet Valley
  • Way-marking of new routes, including the Geotrail. Information on ‘path attributes’ e.g. length of route, gradient, path surface and features which may limit access. Grades of difficulty and length of trail will assist visitors with limited time or mobility.
  • It was intended that a recommendation would be made regarding the improvement of brown signs in the Churnet Valley as part of this proposal. However the provision and management of these is currently under review by Staffordshire County Council. This issue will be revisited once the review has been completed.

Static displays:

Our strategy identifies a requirement for eight static boards in prominent accessible points of the valley to reach an estimated 700,000 visitors per year.  Information will be presented in accessible design and format, as recommended through Fieldfare Trust “Countryside For All” standards and guidelines (e.g. incorporating tactile design where appropriate). Interpretation boards will include those relating to specific projects and where appropriate will reflect the work of the partnership. Each will focus on a specific theme:-

  • The geology and geomorphology of the Churnet Valley
  • Sustainable woodland management
  • Soft ecological and efficient approaches to hard engineering problems
  • Protection of headwaters
  • Landscape management through sustainable agriculture
  • Pre-Canal human history in the valley
  • The canal, railways and industrial revolution
  • Post industrial Churnet Valley

Interpretation boards will be sited at strategic gateways and will provide information relating to the immediate locality, as well as the heritage of the valley overall, and the work of the partnership.

Wherever possible the delivery mechanisms will use locally sourced materials and resources. Displays at project sites will be movable and re-usable whenever possible.

Events and activities

Public events have already taken place in the area to raise awareness and develop understanding of the CVLLP, and these were well received.  The interpretation strategy makes provision for further events, open days, learning events, activities and a celebration event including demonstrations and other interactive methods of engaging with beneficiaries to showcase the heritage of the Churnet Valley.

Increase awareness of sustainable transport across the area

Our Sustainable Transport Interpretation strategy will create an integrated approach to supplying comprehensive information on the extensive opportunities to explore the Churnet Valley and travel between destinations particularly by cycling or walking from key travel hubs, car parks and bus stops.

The strategy has two aims:

  1. To ensure the information is available in a range of easily accessible media including photo trails and downloads with particular emphasis on appropriate on site interpretation through way-marking and increased access to information at destinations and hubs through QR codes and signage.  Building on the existing transport information provision it will ensure as many users as possible can obtain the information they need to support their choice of sustainable travel either through the provision of additional information to interpretation providers and through the new interpretation materials.
  2. To present the transport information alongside the landscape interpretation to allow all travellers through the Churnet Valley easy and convenient access to information about the area.

The strategy will support and protect the Churnet Valley landscape by

•           Protect the landscape by supporting environmentally sensitive transport options

•           Overcoming the restricted road access and parking in the Churnet Valley

•           Supporting and overcoming the shortfall in public transport provision

•           Providing transport options for all members of the community

•           Enhancing personal wellbeing by promoting walking and cycling

•           Increase in referral of visitors between destinations in Churnet Valley

•           Greater engagement and enjoyment of The Churnet Valley by the local communities and visitors

Project Activity

CVeye, a team of four consultants, was established specifically to undertake the interpretation project. All members serve on CVLLP Steering Groups and are members of the local community with a depth of knowledge of the natural and built heritage of the area. They offer substantial expertise to the project, including, brand management, destination management, technical expertise, ecology and biodiversity in addition to the requirements of an interpretation and communication strategy and of the mechanisms for delivery.

We undertook the following tasks:

  • Audit of existing and planned interpretation by partners
  • Consultation with partners to establish the profile and demographic information of the beneficiary groups to ensure suitable interpretation methods and mechanisms are identified
  • Desk study of existing and planned interpretation of the natural and built heritage in the CVLLP area
  • Audit of interpretation of existing sustainable transport including public transport, cycling and walking routes in the CVLLP
  • Consultation with the community for feedback on existing interpretation and future requirements
  • Consultation with community, users and visitors to define needs

Outputs and outcomes

This is designed to be an innovative, professional interpretation programme that firmly intends to communicate the importance of celebrating and protecting the heritage of the Churnet Valley.



Online media – individual hits during project period: 100,000
Online media –engagements and contributions including submission of material by non partners: 1000
Downloads/QR hits – during project period: 25,000


Installed display boards –5 associated with specific projects, plus temporary displays at events and other activities.
Information leaflets produced in printed and/or downloadable form for Headwaters (CVLLP 3), Food with a View (CVLLP 14) and Access to Heritage (CVLLP 18).
Signposts installed for Bridge 70 (CVLLP 7a), Access to Heritage (CVLLP 18) and RSPB Coombes Valley Project (CVLLP 19).

Sustainable Woodlands

Two national professional conference presentations
One EU level conference presentation
One community engagement event
One layman’s report - in conjunction with Headwaters project

Protecting Headwaters

Two national professional conference presentations
One EU level conference presentation
One layman’s report in conjunction with the Woodland project
One community engagement event


Visitors referring to signage & guidance: 700,000

People with (measurable) better understanding of the importance of biodiversity and heritage conservation management in the Churnet Valley 50,000


The interpretation and dissemination tools created in this project (website, downloads, podcasts, learning materials and videos) will be maintained and updated to become a major part of the post HLF Legacy Plan for communication and dissemination. This will include podcasts or reports generated from post funding period monitoring and evaluation and the EU level networking activities.

What will happen when the project is finished

The Churnet Valley Living Landscape Partnership is committed to maintaining the heritage initiative that has arisen from the creation of this project. The CVLLP Interpretation Team will create a post HLF Legacy Plan which will set out how we plan to continue disseminating and communicating our results after the end of the HLF project. It will also indicate how we plan to continue / develop in coming years.

The project plan allows for maintenance and development of online materials for a period of 2 years after the end of the main project. A review will be undertaken by the interpretation team in 2017 to review how best to sustain the resource beyond this date as part of the Legacy Plan.

Climate change

The interpretation project will raise awareness of climate change issues as they apply to the Churnet Valley.

Invasive species

Events and online information to re Himalayan Balsam and American Crayfish, both of which are invasive species of local concern, are anticipated as being included in the interpretation strategy.