Plans to develop a forward-thinking landscape partnership across the Garnock Valley in Ayrshire have been given the go ahead following a funding award from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Garnock Connections, which covers an area stretching from Lochwinnoch to Irvine, with the River Garnock at its heart, has secured the award as part of a £220,000 development phase, which also includes funding from Ayrshire LEADER.
This phase will enable the creation of a suite of projects which will ultimately form a £2m initiative, set to begin in 2018. The projects will aim to restore a network of wildlife habitats and historic sites, as well as encourage local people to become involved through public engagement, training and volunteering opportunities.
The landscape partnership is made up of Historic Environment Scotland, North Ayrshire Council, RSPB Scotland, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, Scottish Natural Heritage and the Scottish Wildlife Trust.
The aim of the initiative will be to raise the profile of the Garnock Valley, conserve and promote important historic and natural features in the landscape, and develop new ways for organisations, local groups and individuals to work together to look after vulnerable heritage.
The Trust's Director of Conservation Susan Davies said: “It's great news that the Garnock Connections project has secured support from the Heritage Lottery Fund. This exciting project builds on successful initiatives in the area including the Irvine to Girvan Nectar Network.
“Thanks to National Lottery players we will be able to connect our reserves in Irvine to other sites to help wildlife move around the landscape. More local people will be able to enjoy the nature on their doorstep, and become actively involved in caring for it.”
Councillor Jim Montgomerie, Portfolio Holder for Place at North Ayrshire Council, said: “This is a fantastic result for North Ayrshire. We have seen the success of landscape partnership initiatives of this type elsewhere. We are excited about the transformational benefits that this project could deliver for the environment, communities and visitors alike, and we can’t wait to work with the partners to make this happen.”
Lucy Casot, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund in Scotland, said: “Nature lies at the very heart of what makes Scotland special but the enormous pressures upon it mean that we have to approach its restoration and conservation on a bigger scale than ever before. The LP programme does just that, and more. Thanks to National Lottery funding, we can help Garnock Connections bring real cohesion to the natural and built heritage of the region, reconnecting people with what often lies overlooked on their doorstep.”
The River Garnock has played a central role in many of the area’s industries, from water-driven lace mills, to the boat yards of Irvine Harbour, and the once-famous Nobel’s explosives factory. This history is sadly in danger of becoming lost as sites are forgotten or developed.
The area, with its wetlands, estuary and sand dunes, is also an incredibly important home for nature, with recent surveys uncovering several rare invertebrates, such as the hairy-footed flower-bee, which has been found nowhere else in Scotland.
The development stage of the project will offer lots of opportunities for local communities and interest groups to get involved. The partnership is curerently recruiting an experienced Project Manager and Project Officer.