Access to Eden: breaking barriers, building bridges

Part of project: Community

Access to Eden: breaking barriers, building bridges is a partnership project, led by Eden Rivers Trust that 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.

The project is split into two broad areas:

Greener spaces on your doorstep
This is about making improvements to the river environment at eight sites that are ‘on the doorstep’ of urban areas along the length of the river Eden – creating sustainable, healthy, thriving natural spaces.  Many of these will be community-led/inspired practical conservation projects that will make the sites in Carlisle, Lower Eden, Penrith and Source of the Eden (Kirkby Stephen) better places for people and wildlife.

An Eden for everyone
This is a programme of activities, often connected to the doorstep sites above but also covering the whole of the Eden catchment, that will create opportunities for people to enjoy Eden’s rivers and nature. This will include improvements to selected walks and trails, coupled with better information plus opportunities including volunteering, training and events for all ages and abilities to get closer to nature, so that more people can explore, enjoy and care for Eden’s rivers.

Core to our project is the desire to create an organic community conservation network for the Eden. We see this operating across organisational boundaries where ideas, knowledge, and opportunities flow from one site to the next across the Eden and take our beneficiaries
with them, ensuring they have the maximum opportunity to experience the natural heritage of the Eden on their own terms.

See below for more details of the doorstep sites and activity programme.

Greener spaces on your doorstep – improving eight sites (from north to south)

Carlisle area

a) Engine Lonning creating a much-loved and well-used inner-city haven for all.

Lead partners: Eden Rivers Trust (ERT), Cumberland Council, Carlisle Waverley Viaduct Trust.

Working with the community, there will be new accessible paths, rest places, signage and interpretation in, and to Engine Lonning celebrating the natural, railway and Roman heritage of the site. Over the four years of the project there will be a series of activities and events for families, young people and local community to introduce, improve, enjoy and learn about the site. There will be resources and information online too!

b) Petteril Vale

Aim: Reconnect the river with the floodplain with enhanced wildlife areas, a place where the community relishes the river.

Lead partner: ERT

This community-driven urban river restoration will put the wiggles back in this straightened river. With the potential for other habitat improvement such as ponds, invasive non-native species removal and native tree planting, once complete, this area will be home to a wider diversity of wildlife and be a much nicer place for the community to visit. There will be a programme of walks and activities to encourage locals to rediscover the river. Interpretation and resources will be developed that link to the waymarked trails and encourage exploration of the natural heritage.

Lower Eden and fellside area

c) Wallacefield

Aim: A safe, rural site where all can help to restore a tributary and enjoy better access to the main River Eden.

Lead partners: ERT, Cumberland Council, landowners Julia Aglionby and Charles Weir.

Working together, the local community, volunteers and ERT will plan, design and carry out the river restoration that will ‘unperch’ a straightened river channel. They’ll look at other opportunities to enhance the habitat as well, such as removal of invasive non-native species. The footpath to the river will be realigned, with improved accessibility and signage. Interpretation will be developed to explain the restoration process and encourage use of the site along with activities for schools/groups.

d) Armathwaite canoe entry/egress

Aim: More people can access, enjoy and exit the river easily and safely without harming the River Eden.

Lead partner: Cumbria Canoeists supported by ERT.

Armathwaite is a well-known and well-used exit point for canoeists and swimmers on the Eden. There is currently no formal entry or exit place, so they scramble up the riverbank which is difficult for new/younger canoeists and damaging too – increasing erosion and sedimentation.

With the philosophy of ‘share with care’ for the river and river users, there is the opportunity to make the river more accessible, but to do so in an environmentally friendly way; protecting the site, introducing important river issues (especially invasive species/Check Clean Dry campaign), and raising awareness of how to take care of it. With the creation of a formal entry/exit point, this project will do all three!

Penrith area

e) Cold Springs Community Nature Reserve

Aim: To create an accessible nature reserve in the heart of the town; loved, used and looked after by the local community.

Lead partner: Cumbria Wildlife Trust

New accessible access point and paths, rest places, signage and interpretation in the wildlife garden and pond will be created. There will also be community-led habitat enhancement: ponds, trees, wildflowers, orchard. Running alongside will be a four-year series of activities and events for families, young people, local community and under-represented groups to introduce, improve, enjoy and learn about the site.
This project also seeks to link up Penrith’s green spaces with a ‘greenways map’ for Penrith.

f) Eden Community Tree Nursery

Aim: A safe, welcoming, inclusive space to help the environment, learn, enjoy the outdoors and have fun.

Lead partner: ERT

Additional funders: Grfield Weston Foundation, Penrith Town Council, Persimmon Homes

Set up as a pilot project by ERT in the development phase, this trial year has resulted in a transformed site where a diverse community of
individuals and groups (young, old and different abilities) come regularly to volunteer with us on their terms. The tree nursery is thriving, and the potential is enormous.

We will continue the co-development of the site with the volunteers and key target groups (including design, construction and management). Improved potting areas, accessible sheds and raised beds will mean that by the end of the project, 4000 trees will have been planted, are growing/used by conservation projects.

Volunteer-driven and supported by ERT, there will be lots of opportunities to learn new skills, discover a love of growing and get closer to rivers and nature … all on their own terms. A year-round programme of events, training and activities on this accessible site will link with the river and encourage the community and those who face the biggest barriers to getting into nature to get involved in conservation!

Source of the Eden area

g) Podgill Viaduct and Smardale trails

Aim: To have more places in the Eden where those with sensory & physical challenges can experience nature on their own terms.

Lead partner: Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority.

There are currently no trails in the Eden or across the Yorkshire Dales National Park that are planned (and promoted) specifically for those who
have sensory impairments (there are very few in the north of England with the nearest being Harrogate) and a limited number of fully accessible trails, so this project will be the first!

At Smardale, the plan is to improve 1.5km of path to be fully accessible from east of Smardale to the road head before Waitby Greenriggs and reinstate two bridges. At Podgill, a Sensory Trail with interpretation will be developed with potential users.
Each site will have an opening event, plus an 18-month programme of targeted activities, with transport for potential user groups (six per site) and local communities. There will also be trail interpretation – both hard copy and online with promotion embedded in the Access Hub and appropriate local and national websites.


An Eden for everyone – activity programme

Ways to the water

Aim: More access to the River Eden for more people.

Promote, describe (and grade) 20 ‘favourite’ accessible routes in the Eden and where feasible, improve accessibility of five additional routes to the river close to centres of population (Carlisle, Penrith, Appleby and Kirkby Stephen) – see also Access Hub.

We will launch a Gaps and Gates Community Fund that will offer financial support for landowners to replace stiles with gates or to create gaps in footpaths to allow easier passage for more people near/ to the river.

River revival

Aim: Communities can be the change makers and advocates for improved rivers and habitats across the Eden.

Partners will work together to open up more opportunities for community conservation volunteers so that they can support conservation projects throughout the Eden.

Action against Invasives

Aim: The invasive species threat to Eden’s rivers is reduced by people power, increased knowledge and personal responsibility.

Everyone can do their bit to stop the spread of invasive, non-native species (INNS) … if they know how. We’ll galvanise communities and river users to Check, Clean, Dry every time they’re in/by the river, give them the tools and knowledge to identify and report INNS and eradicate the most common invader, Himalayan balsam.

Go with the Flow

Aim: Outdoor learning for rivers is embedded into youth and schools’ programmes for the future.

We’ll deliver an outdoor learning programme about and enjoyment of rivers for youth groups, schools and young people with additional needs, CPD for teachers and resources to support learning to inspire and empower the next generation to care for and enjoy rivers.

Skills for a Greener Future

Aim: Assist four young people in taking their first steps into an environmental career and have well-trained volunteers.

Knowledge and skills are key to ensuring our rivers can thrive and support a sustainable future for all, so this programme will feature four 6-month placements for people starting out in a conservation career and practical conservation skills training for staff and volunteers.

Welcome in the countryside

Aim: Inspire and support more disconnected groups to explore Eden’s countryside in a more self-sustained/self-driven way.

Lead partner: North Pennines National Landscape

This is about building up a dialogue with some of the hardest-to-reach groups in the city to explore needs and desires when it comes to being in the countryside and then working with rural communities in Eden to respond to those needs.

The Access Hub

Aim: Create an online space where people can easily find what they need to enjoy, care for and experience the Eden on their terms.

Information about walks, events and conservation opportunities in our area is difficult and time-consuming to find on the web, so the Access Hub will make it easy! This will be an online interactive space with accessibility at its heart, containing inspiration, information and opportunities to explore Eden, take action (volunteer) and learn about/interpret the natural heritage.

Project partners and funders

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 £2 million 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.

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