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Theme 3: Access & Learning and managing information

CVLLP is a programme of interlinked projects that sit within the following themes:

Access and Learning Projects

Canal access improvements

Uttoxeter and Caldon canals access/towpath improvements.

Connecting the Heritage, Cheddleton

Canal based heritage access project between Cheddleton (Boat Inn) and Flint Mill 

Froghall Access

A vital study into connecting heritage points Froghall Wharf to Froghall Station.

Interpretation project

A strategic plan to interpret the heritage of the valley and the work we are doing. Identified – to include a comprehensive guide to the Churnet Valley, Sustainable Transport promotion and information, waymarking of new routes including the geotrail.

Heritage routes access and marking

Access work throughout the valley, heritage trails, National Trust sites, geotrail etc. To improve access associated with the Staffordshire Way Hotspots.

Coombes Valley

Upgrade to Coombes Valley education facilities and interpretation trails.

Cotton Dell

Outdoor Classroom at Cotton Dell identified during hotspot audit.

What physical improvements to access will occur?

The Churnet Valley Living Landscape Partners’ (CVLLP) organisations already had an underlying understanding of the access issues and opportunities within the valley: major transport connectivity problems were confirmed during the Churnet Valley Masterplan Connectivity Study leading to the decision (originating from the Access & Learning Steering Group and ratified by the Partnership Board) not to invest our heritage funding in physical sustainable transport solutions but to direct it toward provision of information.

The Partnership engaged Staffordshire County Council to undertake a full Rights of Way Audit for the 30+ promoted routes already in place through the Churnet Valley, the results of which determined that there was already very good cover geographically. The Partnership Board determined to concentrate our physical access improvements to the “Core Leisure Access Route” of the Caldon Canal and Churnet River Towpath. Two key projects that are used by approximately three quarters of a million walkers, cyclists, anglers and boaters every year have arisen as a result:

  • a canal access project to upgrade the entire canal route for walkers and cyclists through the Churnet Valley Living Landscape
  • a canal-based heritage access project between Cheddleton (Boat Inn) and Flint Mill

The potential for continual improvement of access within the valley is considerable and the CVLLP team aim to work with relevant organisations and the community to optimise access in years to come. During the delivery phase of CVLLP we aim to support a number of small-scale physical access improvement projects linked the “Core Leisure Access Route”, including the small-scale access improvements to New Heritage Trails, Geotrail and National Trust Sites.

Why and where is physical access inappropriate and how will we provide for it?

Although our Rights of Way Audit did not identify any immediate need for physical improvements of promoted routes, the geography of the valley means that many routes are steep, narrow and difficult to access. The Connectivity Study has confirmed this and highlighted the particular difficulties in providing access for cycling and horse riding as leisure pursuits. The Churnet Valley Living Landscape Partnership will be working with access providers and interest groups, including the new Churnet Valley Riding Group (who have become Access & Learning Steering Group members) to provide enhanced access wherever it does not conflict unreasonably with the heritage and landscape quality of the valley. At present however, these projects and ideas are not fully worked up and are not specific to engagement with the heritage of the valley, so they are not pursued during this CVLLP LCAP.

Design appropriate access

The physical access work to be carried out on the CVLLP access theme is concentrating upon the Canal / River part of the Staffordshire Way and the associated access points to other promoted routes that arise from this, together with the Cheddleton ‘Access for All’ project which make up the “Core Leisure Access Route”. The design and specifications for access has been determined by British Waterways, who will ensure they meet the highest specifications suitable to the conditions and use.

Access to different heritage features

Within the valley, the traditional routes of the river, canal (both the existing Caldon Canal and the railway to Froghall and the remnant canal/rail route from Froghall to Denstone) and associated plateways all still have an important role to play in accessing and interpreting the heritage of the valley. The old carriageways built by the Earl of Shrewsbury are also still in existence and in many places are open for access. 

Our Heritage Trails research has identified where these routes are still available and also recognised that there is no immediate requirement to undertake any significant physical improvements; the work to these routes will be minor and, and interpretation/waymarking will be achieved through the interpretation project.

One section of the heritage access which was lost within the Bolton Copper Works at Froghall - the Froghall Wharf to River Churnet stretch of the old Uttoxeter Canal - may not be recoverable. The Copper Works has closed and there are consultations underway through the Churnet Valley Masterplan to determine future land use and planning constraints. With this window of opportunity the Partnership Board of CVLLP have determined that a vital study into connecting heritage points Froghall Wharf to Froghall Station be undertaken.

This study will be physical, to determine what remains and what lies buried, and consultational, in order to inform the planners as to how and why the route must not again be lost under development. If the long-term aim is for the re-opening of the Uttoxeter Canal then at least the short-term aim of CVLLP is to make sure that this important route is kept clear for that potential and opened to the pubic for access.

Information provision and interpretation

Access & Sustainable Transport

The Churnet Valley Living Landscape is in part defined by access in a heritage context, with the valley initially isolated due to terrain, later to be exploited by the canal and then the railway. Unlike many examples of transport evolution the river, canal and rail transport routes were not followed by road; this is part of what makes the Churnet Valley so special and has helped retain an ‘old-world’ feel in many parts. However, the lack of road links within the valley has resulted in connectivity issues and congestion. Our Interpretation and Sustainable Transport Strategy has shown that the provision of information on private car alternatives is the most valuable way the Churnet Valley Living Landscape can contribute to the transport issues in the valley.

There are some 2,500 miles of public Rights of Way in Staffordshire and the Churnet Valley Living Landscape has a high level of provision by distance and number of footpaths. This, coupled with the amount of heritage and landscape interest within the valley, has resulted in excess of 30 existing promoted routes all of which at some point interact with the ‘Core Leisure Access Route’ of the canal / river towpath. Where our physical projects have only limited objectives our interpretation programme aims to bring understanding and opportunities to access these routes to a wider audience in a coordinated manner.

Interpretation of the Heritage of the Valley

Our Interpretation project will link the built and natural heritage of the valley and offer new and coordinated methods by which the community and visitors can learn about the valley, its heritage and its community through the implementation of a strategic plan to interpret the heritage of the valley and link this to the work we are doing. To include a comprehensive guide to the Churnet Valley, Sustainable Transport promotion and information, waymarking of new routes including the geotrail.

We will also use the interpretation tools created to tell the story of the Churnet Valley Living Landscape Partnership programme and the contribution of the partners and supporters such as the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Improved Infrastructure for Access and Leaning.

In the initial proposal under the Churnet Valley Living Landscape Partnership it was thought necessary to create or improve three new built facilities: the Learning Barn at Lafarge, a Bird Hide at Rudyard Lake and improvements to the education building at Coombes Valley. During the development phase, issues around planning permission, road access and need have resulted in the loss of the Rudyard project, while need and cost issues have meant that the Lafarge Barn conversion will not play a part in this LCAP. The upgrade to Coombes Valley education facilities will significantly increase the use of the reserve by the community in general while supplying a much needed education and demonstration resource for the Churnet Valley Living Landscape. Our Hotspot Audit also identified the potential for an outdoor Classroom at Cotton Dell. This will offer a low-impact, small-scale alternative in the bottom of the valley to the Coombes Valley resource which is at the top of the valley.