The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has awarded us a grant of £859,300 to create a new industrial heritage arts trail along two sections of the National Cycle Network Sea to Sea (C2C) route that were once the lifeline of West Cumbria’s iron industry.
Overgrown platforms, a rusty iron ore crusher and a railway signal are historic reminders of the industrial railway past of these routes between Whitehaven to Rowrah, and Workington to Seaton, Siddick and Broughton Moor. The tracks were linked to iron ore mines at Knockmurton and Kelton and ironworks at Workington, Cleator and Distington.
Working with local people we will restore the historic features and natural habitats along the traffic-free paths and tell the stories from a vibrant community linked to the railway. The Tracks of the Ironmasters project (the local name for the old iron ore railway), will include a signed trail about the history and wildlife of the two paths and will work to develop the route as a wildlife corridor and linear park for the community.
Hidden stories along the C2C path
The former railway is a key part of the C2C, which now attracts 15,000 people on bikes every year for the challenging 140 mile long distance ride between Whitehaven and Sunderland. The path is also an important wildlife haven, attracting the nationally rare small blue butterfly, red squirrels, lizards, many types of bats and a very diverse range of wildflowers.
Over the last year we held community consultations and workshops to investigate the untold stories behind the area’s industrial history and wildlife. We also worked with local arts group Art Gene to gather hundreds of memories, artefacts, documents and photos which will help to create the trail.
Cumbria Area Manager, Nikki Wingfield is appealing for volunteers to get involved in the project: “The C2C is already a popular place for people to walk and cycle, but most people have little idea of the historic significance of the trail they are passing through. This funding will help us uncover the history of these tracks and their importance to the local community, as well as to the many animals and plants that now thrive along them. If you’re interested in local history or wildlife and would like to get involved there are lots of opportunities for volunteers, so please get in touch.”