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Our bid to save Smithills Estate gets Lottery boost

We're delighted to announce that we've received initial support*of £69,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to develop plans for the purchase and restoration of Bolton’s historic Smithills Estate.

The Estate – a wild and beautiful patchwork of moor and grassland totalling 1,700 acres and long- treasured by the people of Bolton - is being sold by Bolton Council. Keen to see it remain open to the people of Bolton and beyond, the council has given the us a window to fundraise to buy the site.

The HLF grant, made possible thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, will enable us to undertake more community consultation work and carry out a range of ecological and historical surveys. The successful delivery of this first phase then has the potential to unlock further funding from HLF.

Mark Gordon, Smithills project lead for the Woodland Trust, said:

"The Heritage Lottery Fund grant is a real boost. This money will enable us to build on the work we have already carried out with local people to engage them in shaping our plans. It will also further aid our understanding of what needs to be done to restore the neglected estate so wildlife can thrive again."

If successful in buying Smithills Estate, we intend to use our 40 years of experience to restore the damaged habitats which have suffered years of neglect and under investment.

Mark continued:

"While the estate has fallen into disrepair and sights long familiar to Smithills, such as brown hares, lapwings and the common lizard are threatened, there’s real promise here to turn that around. We want to celebrate the history of the area too by bringing its hidden and important industrial and archaeological features to life. Our hope is to welcome more people to the site by improving public access, creating new engagement activities and opportunities, as well as attracting social enterprise."

Sara Hilton, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund North West, added:

"This is a wonderful opportunity for both the Woodland Trust and for the community and wildlife which would benefit from their plans to secure a bright future for Smithills Estate.  Money raised by National Lottery players has been invaluable for landscapes across the North West, and the level of local support shown for this project demonstrates just how welcome investment here would be. We look forward to seeing this passion continue as the project develops."

The local and national fundraising effort has so far raised £2m to buy the Smithills Estate, which stretches from the Winter Hill TV transmitter on the northern boundary to Barrow Bridge Mill chimney on the southern edge. 

The Woodland Trust’s Sara Wood is leading the fundraising campaign. She said: 

"It’s been a great start to our fundraising campaign and we’re grateful to all those that have donated, but to secure the future of Smithills we need to raise a further £1.5m.  Every pound will go towards the future of this fantastic landscape and, vitally, show other funders just how much this site means to local people."

In 1896, more than 30 years before the famous Kinder Scout mass trespass, 10,000 people took to the moors of Smithills, demanding their right to access the estate which was at risk of being closed off for grouse shooting. More than 100 years later Smithills has reached a turning new point and we believe under our protection its future can be secured for people and wildlife forever.