Well, it’s been quite a year since we started in March 2019. We’ve recruited two teams which work really well together; the core Westmorland Dales team employed by Friends of the Lake District, the Westmorland Dales apprentice team by the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority. We’ve secured joint office and workshop premises on the banks of the River Lune at Tebay, with excellent access to the Westmorland Dales area. And we’ve developed a strong partnership, strengthened with the addition of some new members, which is critical to the successful delivery of our 21 projects.

Projects too have got underway with Cumbria Wildlife Trust, the Eden Rivers Trust, the Farmer Network and the Woodland Trust making a great start on their projects under the Natural Heritage theme. On the Cultural Heritage side the archaeological survey of Great Asby Scar has been largely completed, the traditional farm buildings survey is underway and an early excavation has been undertaken at Pendragon Castle. Under the Connecting Heritage theme, the apprentice project Skills for the Future has had a very positive impact, working on a broad range of sites whilst completing college work and other skills based training. Volunteering too is a thread that underpins many of the projects; new volunteers have been recruited and we’ve worked with specialist groups including Cumbria Geoconservation and Lunesdale Archaeology Society.

All this makes the current situation doubly frustrating, with the scheme gathering momentum, new projects about to start up and a host of engagement events and activities planned. Everything is understandably on hold until we have a better idea of how and when the lockdown will be eased. However, we are fortunate in that the scheme is in a relatively strong position with the flexibility to adapt timescales, budgets and projects to the challenges we face, with the support of our partners and, of course, our major funders the National Lottery Heritage Fund. Ultimately this may mean an extension to the scheme, but it is too early to plan far ahead. For the moment we have assumed a six-month delay to most of the projects and will recommence activities when it is safe to do so. In the meantime we are focussing on planning, fine-tuning some of our processes and making use of the government’s job retention scheme where sensible. Nicola and I will be our principal contacts in May, so contact us by email or me on 07814 305779. Our Love Your Landscape grants scheme is up and running, so get your thinking caps on.

Stay safe, and keep in touch.

David Evans

1 May 2020.