Leicestershire's Charnwood Forest secures National Lottery Support

Beacon Hill - 2020VISION/Ben Hall

Charnwood Forest in Leicestershire has been awarded a National Lottery Heritage Fund grant of £2,767,300 to put this little known, but internationally important, heritage landscape very firmly on the map.

This unique landscape is one of the most significant in the East Midlands, but very few people are aware of its value, both locally and internationally. The landscape is currently at risk and this grant will support new projects to protect and enhance it.    

The grant, made possible by money raised by National Lottery players, will fund the Charnwood Forest Landscape Partnership Scheme. This five year scheme will promote awareness and understanding of the importance of Charnwood Forest through geological conservation, habitat restoration, improvements to connections between sites for visitors, creating innovative interpretation, outdoor learning opportunities for young people and adults, and a five-year programme of cultural and heritage activities and events.

John Everitt, Chief Executive of the National Forest Company, host organisation for the project, said:

“Charnwood Forest’s future hinges on our ability to convey its story effectively. We need to fill people with surprise, delight and awe when they hear it. Only when they understand Charnwood Forest will they be moved to care for it. This Scheme will support more than 80 sites across Charnwood Forest and enable over 1,000 volunteers to learn about and help us to protect this precious landscape.”

Charnwood Forest’s rocky outcrops, some of the oldest rocks on the planet, were thrown up by volcanic activity in the southern oceans more than 600 million years ago. Millions of years of global plate tectonic movements brought the Charnwood rocks to their current location, and with them the fossilised remains of the first moments of complex life on earth. These fossils are only found in a handful of places across the globe, and the most ancient are found in only two places on Earth: Newfoundland in Canada and Charnwood Forest in Leicestershire. Roadshows, events, outdoor activities and Citizen Science projects will enable 10,000 people to explore this incredible history.

Bradgate Park

National Forest Company

But the area is not just important for its fossils. The ancient volcanic geology created the steep, rocky ground and thin soils that are characteristic of Charnwood. These are conditions which make arable farming difficult, so historically much of the area was grazed or left as woodland. Because the land has not been heavily cultivated, it still contains a wealth of nationally and internationally important wildlife, including the Charnwood Spider and rare lichens.

John Everitt explained further: “When most people are asked where Charnwood Forest is, they point to a tiny area east of the M1 around Bradgate Park and Beacon Hill.  But Charnwood Forest covers more than 150 square kilometres. It extends north and west of Leicester, into the National Forest and includes parts of Coalville and Loughborough and villages along the A6 corridor. This project will help reconnect local communities with the landscape and its incredible heritage. Working together to protect this unique landscape is now more important than ever as we mitigate and adapt to climate change.  Charnwood is a hidden gem in the East Midlands and this award will help ensure its unique story and character are celebrated and secured for the future.”

Atul Patel, Chair of the Landscape Partnership Steering Group, said:

"Many organisations and volunteers throughout Charnwood Forest have put in masses of work to achieve this award for the Charnwood Forest Regional Park. A huge thank you to the Fund’s Midlands and East Area Committee and lottery players for their support. This award will unlock further match funding, and we can’t wait to get started on work on the ground as soon as the Covid-19 situation allows.”

Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust will be leading on two projects within the partnership scheme that will focus on grasslands and wildlife recording.

Claire Install, Senior Conservation Officer for the Trust said:

"This is a project the Trust has been involved with as key partners for several years, so it is fantastic that we have been successful in achieving the award. These projects, and others, will help us build upon many years of hard work that the Trust has put into the Charnwood area and we can't wait to get started". 

All the projects to be carried out within the scheme are designed to engage and attract many different audiences, and build a wide passionate base of Charnwood supporters: local residents, families, walkers, people with restricted mobility, urban communities, small businesses, visitors, older people, non-car owners, schools and special interest groups.

The Charnwood Forest Landscape Partnership Scheme

The Charnwood Forest Landscape Partnership Scheme is hosted by the National Forest Company.

The Partnership comprises: Bradgate Park Trust, British Geological Survey, Charnwood Arts, Charnwood Borough Council, The Environment Agency, Hinckley and Bosworth Borough Council, Leicestershire County Council, Leicestershire Local Access Forum, Leicestershire Promotions, Leicestershire & Rutland Sport, Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust, National Farmers Union, National Forest Company, Natural England, North West Leicestershire District Council, Soar Catchment Partnership with Trent Rivers Trust, Sustainable Land Trust, and Voluntary Action Leicestershire.

National Lottery Heritage Fund
The National Forest Company logo