Regional History Centre ‘A Forgotten Landscape’ project

Landscape picture

More than £1m has been awarded to a project to preserve and protect the unique landscape and heritage of the Lower Severn Vale Levels between Avonmouth and Lawrence Weston in Bristol.

A partnership of private and public organisations, including UWE’s Regional History Centre, has been granted £1,017,200 for the 3.5 year Landscape Partnership project ‘A Forgotten Landscape’.

The project will start in January 2015 and aims to restore the heritage of part of the Lower Severn Vale Levels - a term used to describe the coastal region alongside the Severn Estuary between Avonmouth and Lawrence Weston in Bristol and the county boundary with Gloucestershire.

The term ‘heritage’ is used in its widest sense and encompasses the natural environment, archaeology, local history, local food production and traditional farming practices. Historic and modern-day transportation facilities such as the ferry at Aust, the two Severn bridges and the community railway from Temple Meads to Severn Beach are also within the project’s scope.

The project will restore a range of wildlife habitats across the area to benefit its rich array of wildlife, including wetlands, hedges, wildflower grassland and orchards. It will also help communities and people interact with the natural heritage of the Levels and Estuary through a range of volunteer programmes evoking the environmental and oral history of the region, and providing new learning opportunities for school children and wider age groups. It will increase public access to the Levels landscape by rail, bike and on foot, advertising and promoting its heritage features for people and communities living in the area and outside it.

The Lower Severn Vale Levels have a unique character. Once forming part of the wider Somerset and Avon Levels, over the centuries they have become cut off by the expansion of the city of Bristol, industrial development in Avonmouth, and motorway construction. The area has a varied history, a rich diversity of habitats and landscape and a sense of remoteness and tranquillity which belies its proximity to the dense, urban environment of the city.

Professor Steve Poole, Director of the Regional History Centre, said, "This is a fantastic opportunity to promote fresh research into the history and heritage of an often overlooked corner of the region. It is a watery landscape with a rich and varied past and close connections to the city of Bristol. The project will offer great opportunities not only to involve local residents but some of our own students too. We’re really looking forward to getting started”.

Nerys Watts, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund South West, said: “Over the past decade, we’ve had great success with our Landscape Partnership Schemes, especially in the South West, and many threatened landscapes are already on the road to a more secure future. Supporting projects such as ‘A Forgotten Landscape’ is particularly important for us at HLF as they bring together both community groups and public bodies with a shared passion of caring for our incredible natural environment.

“Today’s HLF investment for this historically significant landscape will not only strengthen those partnerships but also capture the enthusiasm of local communities and help reconnect them with this wonderful slice of nature.”

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