Lower Derwent Valley heritage project takes shape in Belper

The DerwentWISE team from left to right: Dave Savage, Nadine Stevenson, Annice Fuller and Tania Pells.
The DerwentWISE team from left to right: Dave Savage, Nadine Stevenson, Annice Fuller and Tania Pells.
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Just over two years ago, the Lower Derwent Valley ‘won the lottery’.

Maybe not literally, but metaphorically speaking, the Heritage Lottery Fund’s £1.767 million award represented the kind of money most organisations can only dream about.

Some of the cattle used for the 'Grazing Comes to Town' project.

Some of the cattle used for the 'Grazing Comes to Town' project.

And one-and-a-half years into the five-year conservation and heritage project that began as a result, we caught up with the woman who the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust employed to manage how the windfall is spent: Tania Pells.

She said: “We are running a five-year, £2.5 million project with 60 projects, 26 of which we have started to deliver on, so it is what is known as a complex programme.

“The project’s overall aim is to enhance local habitats as well to help foster the learning and skills people need in order to look after them.

“But it is the fact that the project covers cultural heritage as well as natural heritage that makes it so unique.

“The river valley and the ancient woodlands have helped produce a unique industrial and cultural heritage as well as a natural one.”

However, she says working previously as the scheme manager of ‘Limestone Journeys’ in Creswell has provided her with an excellent grounding into the complexities of running such a large-scale landscape partnership.

During the conversation, Tania pointed to a number of projects in the Belper area which are already reaping rewards.

One of these is the Belper Meadows Enhancement Project which has created 2.3 hectares of flower rich meadow which will increase the number of bees, butterflies and insects in the area.

Another is the ‘Grazing Comes to Town’ initiative whereby animals are grazed on the land in order to enhance the natural habitats that are produced.

The project is scheduled to finish in June 2019, but Tania says most of the project’s elements will be complete by December the previous year, with the final six months devoted to showcasing and evaluating their achievements.

More details of all the projects and activities they have planned can be found on their website at www.derwentwise.com.

The Lower Derwent Valley

According to its acolytes, the Lower Derwent Valley is special.

It is where the gentle landscape of the lowlands of England meets the rugged uplands of the Peak District giving rise to a diversity of landscape, geology and wildlife characterised by open upland pasture and large expanses of steep-sided woodlands hugging the hillsides.

The scheme area covers 71km2 and follows the River Derwent for approximately 24km (15 miles) from the flood plain on the edge of Derby, at an elevation of 45m, to the limestone gorges surrounding Matlock Bath and Cromford at an elevation of 358m.

The project’s organisers say it is about rediscovering and valuing the landscape for its beauty, wildlife and its resources of wood, water and stone which have inspired mankind’s development through time.

It focuses on the landscape around the World Heritage Site, where the factory system began at the start of the Industrial Revolution.