Abandoned hill villages and colliery brass bands, both legacies of a once thriving coal industry, are to play a central role in a scheme to renew the industrialised heartland of East Ayrshire. The Coalfield Community Landscape Partnership, which aims to reconnect communities with the landscape by creating opportunities for leisure, tourism, skills and training, is in line for £2.56m of National Lottery funding.
The Landscape Partnership area covers 250sq km between the river valleys of the Lugar and the Doon and includes some of the highest levels of deprivation in Scotland. Although scarred by bings and spoil heaps, it contains twenty Special Scientific Interest sites including important blanket bog sites and breeding grounds for hen harriers and short-eared owls. The scheme’s innovative approach will encourage people to work together, through many interlinked projects, to tackle the environmental needs of their local landscape, conserving and restoring the natural and built heritage while celebrating the history and heritage of the area. Potential projects that are planned include: • A trail interpreting the lost mining villages of the valleys and oral histories capturing the life of those that lived there • Restoration works to the banks of the River Lugar • An arts project to celebrate the history of the brass bands associated with the mining communities • The creation of new paths to improve opportunities for walking and cycling • Apprenticeships in landscape management • The development of a sustainable fuel source using river rushes to create briquettes Councillor Douglas Reid, Leader of East Ayrshire Council welcomed today’s announcement. He said: “This fantastic news for East Ayrshire. This will allow us to work up the detail of our ambitious scheme, devised in partnership with our communities. This wouldn’t have been possible without the efforts of our wonderful partners East Ayrshire Leisure Trust, Central Scotland Green Network, Forest Enterprise Scotland, Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere and Scottish Natural Heritage. “We look forward to continuing this partnership work, sharing the benefits of a renewed landscape and celebrating our unique heritage. Thanks to National Lottery players, we will be able to realise our ambitions, carrying out work in our coalfield communities which would not otherwise have proved possible.”
Lucy Casot, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund in Scotland, said: “The Landscape Partnership provides a unique framework with which to tackle large-scale environmental degradation and we have seen it work very successfully in other areas of Scotland. I am delighted that, thanks to players of the National Lottery, the communities of East Ayrshire will be able to benefit from this approach.
“East Ayrshire is often perceived as lacking in interest because of its industrial character when in fact its natural resources and meandering rivers make it rich in both built and natural heritage. The Coalfield Communities Landscape Partnership will help people reconnect with their natural heritage, strengthening their sense of pride and inspiring stewardship of the land around them.”