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Funding announced to revive a forgotten past

This news article was published more than a year ago. Some of the information may no longer be accurate.

Published: 23/07/2012

From relearning the lost crafts of hedge-laying, producing local salt marsh lamb, cider and cheese to conserving habitats for wildfowl and wading birds which flock to this area, the forgotten landscape project aims to help restore the heritage of the ‘Lower Severn Vale Levels’. This includes the foreshore and coastal floodplain between Avonmouth and Lawrence Weston in Bristol, through South Gloucestershire and up into Gloucestershire. The money will help us to improve access to, and an understanding of, this distinctive yet varied landscape. The project addresses heritage in its widest sense, encompassing the natural environment, archaeology, local history and foods; traditional skills and farming practices; and even transportation – looking at the various ways in which people have crossed the estuary over the centuries.

Development funding of £98,300 has also been awarded to help South Gloucestershire Council progress their plans to apply for a full grant at a later date.

As well as directly helping to conserve and benefit the area’s rich wildlife, we want people to rediscover this forgotten piece of the West Country’s ‘Levels’ – whether by bike, by horse or on foot. It will also give schools and local residents the chance to learn more about the levels including:

  • how to identify birds and other wildlife
  • learn about the fascinating human history of the area through archaeology and local history
  • to become skilled in traditional crafts like pollarding and hedge-laying
  • to understand the estuary’s dynamic geology
  • to encourage local production of salt marsh lamb, cheese, fish and cider

Ultimately, we want current and future generations to enjoy, learn from and value this important landscape. The muddy waters of the estuary have the second highest tidal range in the world. Those bands that you can see on the cliffs as you cross over the Severn Bridge from Wales into South Gloucestershire include an internationally renowned, fossil-rich ‘bone bed’. And the cover of Bob Dylan’s album ‘No Direction Home’ famously features him standing on the ramp of the former ferry at Aust.

Cllr Brian Allinson, Chair of South Gloucestershire Council’s Planning, Transportation and Strategic Environment Committee, said: “We’re thrilled and absolutely delighted that the Heritage Lottery Fund has given us more than £1millon towards improving the Lower Severn Vale Levels. This is a massive contribution both in terms of conservation and in helping people to enjoy and learn about this beautiful yet sometimes forgotten landscape. It has a unique and historical character all of its own which has been moulded by the way we have used the floodplain and the Severn Estuary over the years.”

Richard Bellamy, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund South West, said: “The Lower Severn Vale floodplain is a distinctive part of the South West’s spectacular landscape and an important home to wildfowl and wading birds. The Heritage Lottery Fund is pleased to be giving its initial support for the development of this Landscape Partnership scheme which will kick-start important conservation work as well as reviving and celebrating some much-loved traditional practices such as cider and cheese making.”

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