Two of the UK’s biggest conservation charities are joining forces to link two of Grantham’s most popular visitor attractions together.
The Woodland Trust and the National Trust are planning to open up borders on the land connecting the eastern part of Belton House and Londonthorpe Woods in a £1.2 millon investment project to improve the green space on the edge of town and ‘reconnect Grantham to its historic landscape.’
Currently only joined together by a single stile, the project will create unprecendented access between the two sites, allowing people to seamlessly explore a combined area of 225 hectares of woods and parkland.
It has already received a funding boost of £65,700 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to help plans progress, with work due to commence in 2020 following an extensive consultation programme later this year.
The project will allow visitors to not only enjoy the attraction of Belton House but also explore much of the wider Brownlow estate including what is now Londonthorpe Woods. It will create a programme of activities and events to actively involve the local community and visitors from further afield and enable everyone to learn more about these two special places.
Conservation will also be at the heart of the project by working to restore and enhance key wildlife habitats and helping to ensure their protection long into the future.
The area once formed part of the 17th Century Brownlow Estate and the project aims to ensure the continuation of the Brownlow legacy by protecting and enhancing the heritage and parkland features.
Belton House ranger Chris Shaw said: “We both have large accessible land which is not publicised. Despite sharing much of the same history, the public are unaware.”
The HLF will decide whether to award the project the full funding award of £428,200 at a later date and it also needs match funding to go ahead, but both sites are positive for the future.
Ian Froggatt, site manager for the Woodland Trust, said: “We’re thrilled to get this initial piece of financial support from the HLF and National Lottery players, which we hope will lead to a much larger grant to deliver the project.
“With a winning combination of history and nature, it has the potential to be the green lungs of Lincolnshire enabling visitors to enjoy and experience a wealth of health and social benefits.”
Ian hopes that by working together, they will be able to share history, create walking routes and diversify the wood’s visitor base.
Ian added: “For a long time, Londonthorpe Woods has been under used, so we are eager to get started. We currently only have 12 car parking spaces and mainly attract dog walkers. We don’t want to exclude anybody, so we will be engaging with the local community throughout our consultation period, to discover what the barriers are that currently stops people from visiting, for example, lack of public transport near the area or assuming that it is just somewhere to walk dogs.”
After sectioning off a large area of the woodland to dogs two years ago, Ian is also hoping to reach out to local schools and eventually create a forest school.
With a large pond, woodland, different species of wildlife and grassland, schoolchildren will be be able to explore and have their own woodland adventures. Ian added: “We have practically got all the different habitats on our doorstep.”
History will also play a key part in the project.
The parkland has been witness to much over the years, but maybe one of the more important roles it has had over the last 300 years is being home to the base depot and headquarters of the Machine Gun Corps.
Soldiers became a regular fixture in the parkland from September 1914 until 1920. A small town was created for around 20,000 men complete with a military hospital, churches, YMCA huts and even its own railway line.
Within the parkland, the location of the camp is accessible and some remains are still visible.
The charities are eager to enrol volunteers to help throughout the project and with over 225 hectares of historic landscape, there will be plenty of opportunities to roll up your sleeves and get involved.
Ian added: “Watch this space!”