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Charnwood Forest awarded National Lottery support

Friday, 3rd November 2017

Sunset over Charnwood Forest. Copyright Chris Donohoe

Charnwood Forest has been successful in a £2.75m grant bid for initial support by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) through its Landscape Partnership (LP) programme, it was announced today.

The project aims to raise the profile of Charnwood Forest, a surprising outpost of upland England in lowland Leicestershire.

It will help people to explore Charnwood by investing in the 'honey-pot' sites of Beacon Hill, Bradgate Park and the Outwoods and improving the network of footpaths, bridleways and cycle routes that link them.  It will also help people to engage with Charnwood's rich history through arts, activities and events and offer them opportunities to learn new skills such as drystone walling and wildlife recording.  It will then harness people's interest in Charnwood to get them involved in its future through helping tell its stories, managing its habitats and protecting its heritage.

Charnwood Forest's unique landscape erupted out of a volcano 600 million years ago, in the oceans near the South Pole.  It has developed rich layers of heritage: its landscape is defined by granite-topped hills, wooded valleys, heathlands and grasslands; its shaded lanes reveal Arts and Craft cottages, ancient monasteries and drystone walls.  Sir David Attenborough was inspired as a boy in Leicestershire by its internationally important geology and fossils.

But, despite being on the doorstep of Leicester, Loughborough and Coalville, its value, beauty and importance is not as well-known as it should be.  This puts it at risk: if people are not passionate about Charnwood, they will not understand its importance and, ultimately, the things that make it so special risk being forgotten and lost.

Drew Bennellick, HLF Head of Landscape and Natural Heritage, said: "Across the UK people are increasingly realising that nature is in trouble and it's time to take a more proactive approach.  Schemes like these provide a creative solution to helping people reconnect with landscapes and the environment, to implement solutions at a truly landscape-scale and tackle issues such as soil loss and flooding by supporting partnerships and coalitions of the willing."

John Everitt, Chief Executive, National Forest Company, said: "This is a wonderful opportunity to develop the Charnwood landscape and we are grateful to the Heritage Lottery Fund and to all National Lottery players for making it possible.  Charnwood is a key landscape within the wider National Forest's 200 square miles: a unique upland landscape with ancient woodland and a rich history.  We look forward to working with all our partners to bring Charnwood's stories to life and help the surrounding communities engage with this very special place."

Pam Posnett, Leicestershire County Council's cabinet member for environment, said: "From the bluebells in the spring to rock climbing and hiking, there are lots of reasons to visit Charnwood Forest.  Its unexpected and dramatic upland landscapes are steeped in history, with one of the world's earliest fossils being found there in the 1950s.  It really is fantastic that the funding bid has been successful, encouraging people from Leicesershire and beyond to appreciate what's on their doorstep."

Eric Vardy, Chair of the Charnwood Forest Regional Park, and Hilary Fryer, Charnwood Borough Council's portfolio holder for Open Spaces and Leisure Services, said: "We are absolutely delighted that the Partnership has been successful in the first phase of its bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund.  We look forward to work commencing on the next round of the scheme to ensure the survival and enhancement of the much-loved and unique landscape of Charnwood Forest for future generations.  Member organisations of the Landscape Partnership have worked really hard on this exciting flagship project which will raise the profile of Charnwood Forest and 'put it on the map!'"

Kevin Ryan, Chief Executive, Charnwood Arts, said: "This is fantastic news for all concerned and opens the door to develop new community focused projects and events that bring together the offer of arts and culture with the unique heritage of the area.  The arts, in their wider sense, can make a huge contribution to engaging people in what this initiative aims to achieve."

For further information on the project and to follow it as it develops, keep in touch via social media: www.facebook.com/charnwoodbid/ Twitter: @Charnwoodbid