The North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) Partnership has announced that a multi-million pound project to conserve and celebrate the landscape of the Allen Valleys is now underway.
Preservation of historic buildings, restoration of hay meadows, management of woodlands and wildlife and the creation of an observatory are just some of the projects planned for the four-year scheme that aims to make the most of the area’s heritage assets.
The Allen Valleys Landscape Partnership Scheme has been in the pipeline since 2009 but confirmation of a £1.7M grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) means that the detailed programme of works is now a reality.
It is hoped the project will provide a huge boost for the area by strengthening and increasing the visitor economy, and providing a better future for residents and businesses, by allowing greater access to heritage sites and promoting a clearer understanding of its significant cultural history.
The AONB Partnership’s Andy Lees, Scheme Manager, said: “This is a really exciting time for everyone involved. We’re thrilled with the confirmation of the all-important grant from the HLF and it means we can finally put our plans into action. I genuinely can’t wait to get started.
“The Allen Valleys boasts outstanding natural and built heritage features that will benefit from sympathetic management, increased care and interpretation opportunity. Without major intervention now some of these irreplaceable assets could be lost forever. With this money, and the help of a wide range of partners, we aim to breathe new life into the area’s special qualities.”
Ivor Crowther, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund North East, said: “HLF’s landscape-scale funding has helped forge strong local partnerships which have secured the future of some of our most threatened landscapes – many in the North East. This project will ensure that a much wider range of people will benefit from the natural heritage around them and mean that the impressive built heritage of the Allen Valleys will be restored and conserved for future generations to enjoy. We were impressed with this project’s vision for the area and the commitment and support that local communities have given to the scheme.”
With additional match funding, more than £2.7M will be injected into the local economy including the creation of two-full time jobs and a series of year-long traineeships.
During the first year the AONB Partnership plans to establish an electric bike network with local businesses, create a community growing space, restore wildlife habitat and start to consolidate one of the area’s key heritage structures, Allen Mills.
At the boom time of lead extraction in the North Pennines, the Allen Mills site was one of the most active smelting centres in the north of England. During the project, the Partnership team will work with the site’s owner to preserve and interpret some of the key remains within this Scheduled Ancient Monument, which is hoped will include the restoration of its iconic water wheel.
Other notable sites targeted for regeneration include Deneholme woodland garden, Barney Craig mine shop and Ninebanks Hearse House.
People living across the Allen Valleys, which covers about 20,000 hectares of the catchments of the rivers East and West Allen, in south west Northumberland, have been involved in the project from the start.
Locals, business owners and community groups have had their say in shaping some elements of the scheme and will continue to play valuable roles over the next four years and beyond.
Andy said: “We want to find ways during the next four years to create sustainable projects that will go on beyond the life of the Scheme, this is just the start. Plans for a community micro-hydro project will support renewable energy generation which we hope, in turn, will provide an income that will allow these projects to continue way into the future.
Chris Woodley-Stewart, Director of the AONB Partnership, said: “Our role in the Allen Valleys Landscape Partnership Scheme might only last until 2018 but we hope it has far reaching benefits that will be felt by many generations to come.
“We are very pleased we can now put plans into practice and start this exciting project.”