Fantastic finale for Dukesfield, winning Love Northumberland Awards Best Coast or Countryside Project, 2015
The combined efforts of 200 volunteers, expertise from local professional contractors and strong leadership from local people has earned the Dukesfield Arches near Slaley, Northumberland a coveted Love Northumberland Award.
The 2015 awards were hosted last week at the Alnwick Garden by the Duchess of Northumberland, BBC Look North’s Carol Malia and Northumberland County Council. The awards celebrate the work of the schools, community groups and individual volunteers whose endeavours preserve and enhance the environment in the county.
It seems incredible that only just over two years ago the eighteenth century arches had trees growing out of the top of them, were in a precarious state and relatively little was known about their history and the importance of the site to the regional lead industry. Now, thanks to the enthusiasm of many local people, and a grant of £247,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the arches are restored and their heritage is secure.
Ian Forbes, Chairman of the project steering group, said: “This is a project that has saved an important part of our heritage. It was started and led by local people, and has had a great combination of professionals and volunteers working and learning together. Feedback tells us how immensely rewarding and enjoyable everyone involved found the project.”
Greg Finch of Hexhamshire Parish Council helped to set up the project added: “Five years ago, one of our parish councillors said ‘the arches could do with a bit of attention’; well they’ve certainly had that! The help & support of the Heritage Lottery Fund, our partners and our fellow volunteers made it all possible. We are all really proud of what has been achieved and it is a fantastic honour that our collaboration has been recognised by the Love Northumberland Awards. Hopefully it can inspire others to see that big projects don’t always have to be carried out by big organisations!”
Yvonne Conchie, who managed the multi-stranded project said “I’ve loved working with these folks – they really know how to enjoy their local environment. People walking past the arches got roped into conserving them, excavating what lay underground, transcribing the handwritten archive documents and invited to events. The volunteers have used the arches, the pack ponies and the history they have learnt to give new inspiration to their hobbies and they’ve seized the opportunity to share them with other people. I really enjoyed the printmaking, tasting the heritage recipes and watching the comedy play that they have produced. They’ve truly made the most of it all.”
A video can be seen on the project’s web site www.dukesfield.org.uk that tells more about the project, its impressive range of activities and breadth of engagement. Earlier this year, the project came a close second in the Constructing Excellence in the North East Awards, and recently was one of four projects shortlisted for the prestigious, national Historic England Heritage Angel Awards.
The Dukesfield Smelters and Carriers project was led by the Friends of the North Pennines in partnership with Hexhamshire and Slaley Parish Councils, has the active support of the landowner, Allendale Estates and is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the generous support of other sponsors.