Heritage Lottery Fund success for Smithills

The Smithills Estate is the largest Woodland Trust site in England and our successful Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) bid is the largest HLF donation ever awarded to the Woodland Trust.

How is this money going to benefit the estate and wider countryside?

Since 2015, we have been managing the Smithills Estate on the edge of Bolton in North West England. We had a fantastic response from our initial fundraising appeal, especially from the people of Bolton.

This amazing support enabled us to purchase two thirds of the estate. A generous partner then purchased the final third, holding it for us and allowing us time to raise the funds needed to bring the entire estate in to our ownership.

Over the past two years we have carried out detailed consultation, undertaken a wide range of surveys and talked to all sorts of people to pull together an HLF funding application that would provide some of the funds needed to acquire this final third and restore the estate’s habitats, access and heritage.

We can now reveal that we were successful in this bid and have secured £1.9 million for the next five years!

HLF funding will kick start a 20 year project to revitalise all aspects of Smithills Estate (Photo: John MacPherson / WTML)
HLF funding will kick start a 20 year project to revitalise all aspects of Smithills Estate (Photo: John MacPherson / WTML)

What is the HLF?

The HLF funds projects across the country that will help protect and maintain UK heritage, all thanks to National Lottery players. This includes, parks, heritage sites and rare wildlife:

“From the archaeology under our feet to the historic parks we love, from precious memories to rare wildlife… we use money raised by National Lottery players to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about.” - HLF website 2017

HLF money has helped various other Woodland Trust projects in the past, including the ancient woodland restoration project, Glen Finglas in Scotland and Fingle Woods in Devon. But this is by far the largest donation ever received from HLF, demonstrating how ambitious and inspirational our Smithills project is.

Habitat management at Smithills will benefit creatures like the palmate newt (Lissotriton helveticus) (Photo: Liz Carney / WTML)
Habitat management at Smithills will benefit creatures like the palmate newt (Lissotriton helveticus) (Photo: Liz Carney / WTML)

How much did HLF award the Smithills Estate?

HLF has awarded the Smithills Estate £1.9 million of a £4.3 million project which will start this year with funds allocated until 2022. As HLF funds a proportion of the overall project, the Woodland Trust is required to find the rest – classed as 'match funding'.

We have been offered the £1.9 million grant on the basis that we fulfil a funding plan which gives confidence that we will raise the matched funds (£2.4m) via several mechanisms, including our current public appeal. We’re confident of raising much of the funds we need through other sources but are looking to this appeal to bridge the expected gap.

Where will this money be spent?

This funding will be used over the next five years and will kick start a 20 year project that will see all aspects of the estate revitalised.

The initial benefit will be in contributing to the purchase of the final third of the site which includes the Barrow Bridge area and much of the ancient woodland. We’ve been managing this part of the estate since 2015, but now we will be able to officially bring it within Woodland Trust ownership and protection.

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The HLF funding will improve all aspects of the Smithills Estate. Information boards, new walking routes and interactive guided experiences will be introduced across the Smithills Estate to highlight the rich mix of social heritage and natural history that you can discover.

Habitat management will increase the site's biodiversity and strengthen local habitats. For starters we plan to double the tree cover on the estate, taking the total from 10% to 20%. This will improve the woodland habitat but also connect areas together, creating great wildlife corridors to allow the movement of birds, insects and even flowers across the site.

The blanket bog habitat which is found up on the moor will also be restored to help slow the run-off of rainwater that results in lowland flooding. We will also work on the grassland and rare heathland, encouraging its regeneration.

The HLF project will help train our volunteer group. Now 90 members strong, they will be able to learn new skills, such as dry-stone walling, whilst repairing infrastructure and heritage features.

Some of the funding will also be used to help start up enterprises across the site. Through the Smithills Enterprise Hub, local people with bright and environmentally friendly enterprise ideas will be able to set up shop within Smithills, boosting the local economy.

The existing access will also be improved for visitors to the Smithills Estate, making it truly open for one and all to enjoy. Site access includes the creation of a new centrally sited car park which will enable more people the means to experience and enjoy the uplands of the estate.

However, to fully achieve all this we still need your help.

We still need to raise further funds for the acquisition and care of Smithills (Photo: Liz Carney / WTML)
We still need to raise further funds for the acquisition and care of Smithills (Photo: Liz Carney / WTML)

Why are we still fundraising for the Smithills Estate?

The bid success is a milestone in our history, but it only provides some of the funding we need – your help remains crucial. We’re confident of raising much of the additional funds we need from other sources but are seeking a further £300,000 through an appeal to members and local people to ensure our long term plans to revitalise Smithills can become reality.

By donating now you can help us secure the final third of the site and carry out our 20 year plan to re-establish a vibrant and valuable estate that is self-sufficient.

If we are unable to raise these funds we may have to scale back our ambitions. We still need your help to ensure that we do not face that situation and can make the most of the estate for wildlife and people.

How can you help?

Donate to the Smithills appeal to secure the future of Smithills Estate for local people, over 950 species of wildlife and Smithills’ fascinating heritage.

Help secure the future of Smithills

Donate now