Group of people holding plant pots with freshly planted sticks in them that will grow into trees.

Eden Rivers Trust awarded £2.6m to break down the barriers to Eden’s rivers and natural heritage

We’re delighted to announce that we have received a grant of £2 million from The National Lottery Heritage Fund as part of our exciting heritage partnership project, Access to Eden: breaking barriers, building bridges.  

Added to money raised by the project’s partners, that will see a total of £2.6 million spent on people and the environment in the Eden over the next four years.

Made possible by money raised by National Lottery players, Access to Eden: breaking barriers, building bridges will remove the barriers that prevent people and wildlife from accessing the natural heritage of East Cumbria and ‘build the bridges’ needed so that they enjoy and thrive in, on and beside Eden’s rivers.

This will include improvements to walks and trails, coupled with better information plus opportunities for all ages and abilities to get closer to nature, so that more people can explore, enjoy and care for Eden’s rivers.

Another major part of the project involves community-led practical conservation projects at eight ‘doorstep’ sites that are within easy reach of urban areas along the length of the river Eden – creating sustainable, healthy, thriving natural spaces.

Whilst developing the project, people who faced the greatest barriers to accessing nature told us that having safe, accessible places to access nature on their doorstep was vital. Here’s a bit more about how two of these sites will be developed as part of Access to Eden:

Loving Engine Lonning

Over the last year, we have spent time with the community surrounding the Engine Lonning green space in Carlisle to find out how the space could be improved to encourage more people to use it.

As a result, over the next two years in a project led by Cumberland Council, a wheel-friendly path will be laid and the environment will be improved by clearing paths and removing invasive non-native species. Local people will discover the railway and Roman history of the site through new signs inspired by the community and a programme of community events.

trees line either side of a path. Three adults are walking along it. One is carrying a toddler on her hip.

Family guided walk by The Hiking Household at the Engine Lonning Discovery Day in Carlisle, June 2023. Photo: Stuart Walker Photography

Cllr Anne Quilter, Cumberland Council’s Executive Member for Vibrant and Healthy Places, said:

“This is great news for one of our key sites within Carlisle. We welcome the investment and look forward to working with partners on this exciting collaborative project. We have a rich heritage to explore, and this initiative has the added benefit of engaging with local residents as well as improving access and the habitat on Engine Lonning.”


David Ramshaw Secretary and Director of Carlisle Waverley Viaduct Trust (CWVT) added: “We are delighted to partner with Eden Rivers Trust and Cumberland Council. We applaud their plans to improve access to Engine Lonning Nature Reserve via better footpaths and the encouragement of visitors to appreciate the area’s flora and fauna, the riverbank, its Roman and (more recently) its railway and other industrial history.

CWVT will actively encourage the local community to learn about this rich history through tours and volunteering and will apply its extensive knowledge to the task of developing a lively interpretation of it on the ground. ERT’s aims complement CWVT’s mission to re-open the adjoining former railway viaduct over the river, initially for pedestrians but ultimately for the disabled and cyclists. There is overwhelming public support for the viaduct to be brought into use once more, thus providing the sole traffic-free means of crossing the river west of Carlisle city centre.”

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Nurturing nature in Penrith

A wheelchair user tests out the accessible path at the tree nursery.

Testing out the newly-laid accessible path at the Eden Community Tree Nursery

In Penrith, local people will have two new places on their doorstep; Cumbria Wildlife Trust’s Cold Springs Community Nature Reserve and Eden Rivers Trust’s Community Tree Nursery.

Work started last year on these accessible spaces where communities are taking the lead in shaping their development; volunteering to dig, build and plant features and enjoying learning about how to grow trees, look after nature and simply enjoy the view. Both sites will have a packed programme of events and opportunities for local people to volunteer over the next four years.

Kevin Scott, Northern Reserves Officer for Cumbria Wildlife Trust said:

“It’s fantastic to be part of this project and I hope that many more people will be able to access and connect to nature and wildlife, particularly those who have found such access challenging in the past. This is so important for people’s mental health and wellbeing, as well as hopefully raising awareness and support for restoring wildlife in our natural world, which really needs it in the face of the ever-increasing pressures of modern life.”

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Elizabeth Radford, Chief Executive, Eden Rivers Trust, said:

“All the partners in this project love the Eden Valley and the special natural places found here, from the river’s source in Mallerstang to the sea beyond Carlisle. This grant from The National Lottery Heritage Fund will allow more people to experience the magic of those places, many of whom currently find themselves excluded.  Through sharing these places, we hope more people from different communities will be encouraged to join in with caring for the Eden; our countryside and our wonderful river.”


Helen Featherstone, Director, England, North at The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said:

We are delighted to support Eden Rivers Trust with this project that will encourage a thriving, wildlife-rich river landscape and connect local people with the natural heritage of East Cumbria. Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, it is great to know that this rich heritage will be safeguarded for years to come, and communities will be able to explore the wonderful nature right on their doorstep.”

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Leading a river revival

The 14-strong partnership led by Eden Rivers Trust brings together local councils, environmental organisations, river user and transport groups, community groups and accessibility campaigners whose knowledge and expertise will unlock rivers and nature for more people than ever before, providing opportunities to connect them to the wonder that is the natural world found in the wider Eden valley.

Elizabeth added:

“The project partners have raised £600,000 of match funding from over 20 sources to contribute to this project: including both Cumbrian Councils, charitable trusts and some generous private donors – already a huge community effort which will be recognised throughout the project alongside the incredible contribution from The National Lottery Heritage Fund.”

Access to Eden project partners

Access the Dales, Carlisle Waverley Viaduct Trust, Cumberland Council, Cumbria Canoeists the delivery partner of the British Canoeing Cumbria Regional Development Team, Cumbria Wildlife Trust, Eden Rivers Trust, NHS North Cumbria Integrated Care, North Pennines National Landscape, Northern Viaduct Trust, Penrith and Eden Refugee Network, Penrith Town Council, Westmorland and Furness Council, Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust, Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority.

The total project is worth £2.6m with £2million awarded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund. Other donors include: Ernest Cook Charitable Trust, Garfield Weston Foundation, Westmorland and Furness Council, Defra Access Fund, Network Rail, Cumberland Council, Cumberland Community Panels, Cumbria Wildlife Trust, North Pennines National Landscape, Yorkshire Dales National Park, British canoeing, Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust, landowners at Wallacefield, Ian Gregg and Penrith Town Council.


Look out for more news and opportunities to get involved in this project on our website over the coming months!


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