A real hunger exists within rural communities to conserve landscapes steeped in local heritage, and this sentiment must continue to be tapped into if the countryside is to be properly protected for future generations to enjoy.
So said Louise Brown, the manager of a ground-breaking four-year project in North Yorkshire which draws to a close later this year.
Backed by £1.2m in grant funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Upper Nidderdale Landscape Partnership has engaged with a wide range of local people, including artists, archaeologists and farmers, to tell the story of how the area has been shaped by industry and those who have lived and worked there in the past.
It has also carried out conservation work at four flagship heritage sites including the nationally important Prosperous Lead Mine in the Ashfoldside valley.
Farmers have taken steps to increase biodiversity and archaeological digs have revealed new details about the area’s rich history.
In total, some 1,080 hectares of farmland has been surveyed by volunteers who have dedicated, across the partnership’s wider work, more than 5,000 hours of their time.
The scheme has also delivered training to local people in skills such as masonry and dry stone walling, whilst having sought to champion rural sectors through education and the arts.
As the project is now coming to an end, key findings from the partnership’s work will be shared to inspire other communities and organisations at a major conference in Pateley Bridge.
Ms Brown, scheme manager at the Upper Nidderdale Landscape Partnership, summed up the project’s achievements, saying: “We’ve successfully worked with the local community, farmers, land managers and a wide range of organisations to explore practical ways to safeguard and celebrate our landscape, heritage, wildlife and rural economy.
“It’s vital to use this learning for the future of our countryside and to ensure we protect it for generations to come.”
Experts from leading environmental and landscape organisations will contribute to the partnership’s forthcoming Landscape Matters conference. Speakers include the commissioner for the Food, Farming and Countryside Commission, Prof David Hill, who is also chairman of the conservation charity, Plantlife, David Renwick, regional head of the Heritage Lottery Fund and Ken Smith, chairman of the Council for British Archaeology.
They will hear how the findings of the partnership’s work are of “national significance”.
“It’s been hugely successful, showing how people can positively make an impact on our rural landscapes,” said Ms Brown as she reflected on the last four years of work with the Upper Nidderdale community.
“Whether it’s finding a space for wildlife or wildflowers, or conserving old buildings, there’s a real hunger for this work.
“It’s a bridge to the past which people really value, and importantly offers a road map for the future to ensure our Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty continues to flourish.”
The project manager added: “The learnings have national importance. Losing young people from farming and land management is one of the biggest risks to its future.
“The work we have done shows how local communities can work with organisations to benefit the countryside.
“We hope it will be a legacy that will continue and live on for a long time.”
The partnership’s end of scheme conference takes place on Thursday, September 13 in Pateley Bridge.
For the full programme of events, and to book, visit uppernidderdale.org.uk/about-us/conference-2018. Places are free but limited, so booking is essential.
Over the last four years the Upper Nidderdale Landscape Partnership has made great strides to boost biodiversity and educate young people about the area.
More than 10 hectares of trees have been planted and 9.5 hectares of habitat has created for wading birds, while more than 300 primary school children from north Leeds have visited the area.