The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has awarded Sustrans the initial support to start a new industrial heritage arts trail along two sections of a 19th century railroad which were once the lifeline of West Cumbria’s iron industry.
The former railways are part of the Sea to Sea (C2C) walking and cycling route between Whitehaven to Rowrah, and Workington to Seaton, Siddick and Broughton Moor, but overgrown platforms, a rusty iron ore crusher and a railway signal are historic reminders of the paths’ industrious past. A number of railway lines in the area were linked to the iron ore mines at Knockmurton and Kelton and ironworks at Workington, Cleator and Distington.
Now thanks to the new funding, we will begin community consultations and workshops to investigate the human stories behind the area’s industrial history and wildlife for a future arts trail along the paths. We will also commission expert surveys on the condition of a number of historic bridges and assessments on local wildlife, particularly rare species such as bats and reptiles, spotted by locals on the routes.
The new project will have several volunteer opportunities to help unlock the little known story of the area’s iron railroads and to restore and manage the sites effectively in the future. Sustrans will be holding community events in Workington (14 July) and Whitehaven (15 July) to gather anecdotes, photographs and documents from the towns closest to the tracks.
Sustrans Area Manager Nikki Wingfield said:
“We are delighted to win this development money from Heritage Lottery Fund. 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. The 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 do get in touch! ”
The Whitehaven to Rowrah path (9.5 miles), and the Workington to Seaton, Siddick and Broughton Moor path (6 miles) are managed by Sustrans. They link to the National Cycle Network, which this year celebrates its 20th anniversary, and includes 14,000 miles of cycle and walking paths, many of which are traffic-free.
HLF has awarded an initial £49,700 for Sustrans to develop the ‘Tracks of the Ironmasters’ project and Sustrans will also bid for an additional £640,300 to implement it. If the charity is successful in the second round it will work with artists to create a heritage and wildlife trail along the former railway tracks, conserve the unique features of the paths and develop long term links with the community.