Getting to know Engine Lonning and its community

We believe that having green spaces on your doorstep where you can be close to nature and the river is essential for good mental and physical health and well-being.

One such space is Engine Lonning in Carlisle. Once a busy rail yard for the London & North-Eastern Railway, these days it is a wildlife haven tucked away in the city, beside the River Eden.

As part of our development year funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund for our Access to Eden: Breaking barriers, building bridges partnership project, we are looking at sites such as Engine Lonning – doorstep sites that can be found in built-up areas and exploring with local communities how/what improvements could be made so that they can access and enjoy them more easily.

Starting the conversation

Working in the area around Engine Lonning is new to us, so we invited residents along to Newtown Methodist Church for a chat to tell us more about this green space; its history and what it means to them – what they love, hate, and the improvements they would like to see.

More than 50 people came along to talk to us and our partners – Cumberland Council and Carlisle Waverley Viaduct Trust – sharing their stories, concerns, and ideas!

This is what they said …



I love how secluded the area is, rather than public, no cars. A lot of history to the place. I have anxiety, so being out in nature helps.

Where heritage meets nature.

It could be a really nice place to walk. Easily accessible from nearby residential housing.

(We) paddle in the river when its warm so our feet are cool and cold.

Bridge blocked off - can't cross it!

Access difficult due to steps, lack of signage and poorly maintained pathways

I wish I knew more about the environment and the river.

I wish I knew more about the Lonning - what it used to be and the turntable and water wheel that used to be here.

Three people stood talking next to a map on a table with post it notes stuck to it. One person is pointing at the map
A man and a woman look at Tania who is talking to them.
A man in a wheelchair with an attached table is writing on post it notes, whilst a woman sat next to him looks on.

Discovery Day - fun and activities for all ages

But the conversations didn’t stop there!

A few weeks later, we invited everyone who lived near Engine Lonning in Carlisle to come along and discover their wild side at this hidden gem beside the River Eden.

There was a chance for all ages to sample FREE taster activities to discover something new about the natural and industrial heritage of this popular spot.

Members of Carlisle Waverley Viaduct Trust led a heritage walk uncovering the industrial heritage of what was once a busy rail yard for the London & North-Eastern Railway.

There was fun for all the family with a wild play area in the company of Stomping Ground, the chance to try out a brand-new family-friendly walk with Laura from The Hiking Household, and take part in a ‘bio-blitz’ with Carlisle Natural History Society and the Cumbria Biodiversity Data Centre.

Jenni, our Volunteer Coordinator was also on hand to introduce participants to the joy of balsam bashing – the invasive non-native plant, Himalayan balsam is a persistent pest around here.

Testing a family-friendly hike with The Hiking Household

Carlisle Waverley Viaduct Trust

Railway heritage walk with Carlisle Waverley Viaduct Trust

As always, minibeasts proved a popular draw, with the chance to see up close the invertebrates and other creatures that make their homes in Engine Lonning and the River Eden.

Residents and users of the green space took the opportunity to talk to us and Cumberland Council to share their memories, thoughts and ideas on how this site could be improved in the future for people and nature.

Thanks to our partners, Cumberland Council and Carlisle Waverley Viaduct Trust for making this day possible.

Discovery Day photos: Stuart Walker Photography

Exploring nature with Cumberland Council

Wild Play with Stomping Ground

Wild play with Stomping Ground

What have we learnt so far?

The key improvements the community suggested include:

  • Improving the trails to make them more accessible wheel-friendly (for wheelchairs and pushchairs) and less muddy, making the site feel more welcoming and inviting.
  • Places to rest while, and enjoy the peace and quiet (more benches and picnic tables).
  • Less litter and dog mess – that all dog owners understand that other people (especially families) use and enjoyment of the space is limited by dog mess.
  • Understanding the heritage of the site whilst enjoying it – both industrial and natural – is important, so good signage to help people feel safe exploring (without fear of getting lost) and interpretation of the site will be key.
  • Breaking down the barriers that prevent access for further exploration – Engine Lonning is a gateway to accessing the river and the wider countryside. This chimes with Carlisle Waverley Viaduct Trust’s mission to re-open the viaduct.

What's next?

Conversations are continuing over the summer.

We’ve commissioned specialists in wild play, Stomping Ground CIC to work with the local pupil referral centre and community centre to find out what young people and families want from their local green space. We’re exploring links with organisations and people who work near the site, which has already included a very enjoyable time joining in with a local wellbeing walk. Tania has also worked with local schools to explore their local rivers and the wildlife that lives there.

Following these conversations, we will finalising the plans for the trail improvements with Cumberland Council.

Watch this (green) space!

Cumberland Council logo
Carlisle Waverley Viaduct logo
Access to Eden project logo


Eden Rivers Kingfisher Icon
Eden Rivers Kingfisher Icon