An £8.5 million project to connect, restore and enhance the Tees and Swale valleys has been launched.
Tees-Swale: naturally connected programme, predominantly funded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, is a five year scheme being led by the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) Partnership in collaboration with the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority.
The project has been officially launched in a virtual event, bringing together partners and local communities to mark the beginning of the scheme.
The event last month was attended by 217 people representing farmers and landowners, community arts organisations, youth group leaders, conservation NGOs, environmental academics, and residents.
Speakers including Sir John Lawton, chair of the Tees-Swale board, Marian Spain, CEO of Natural England, and Niki Rust, Tees-Swale programme manager, gave an overview of the scheme.
The programme covers an area of 850 km², creating a significant nature recovery area in the northern uplands.
Officials say work to mitigate climate change, improve wellbeing and boost biodiversity will aid the post-Covid green recovery of the UK.
A lively panel discussion led by Neil Heseltine, chair, Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, raised points such as how to evidence the programme’s impact, how to strengthen collaboration and how best to undertake nature recovery.
Programme manager Niki Rust, from the North Pennines AONB Partnership, said: “COVID-19 changed the way we launched Tees-Swale, but we adapted and it showed how we can still come together to engage with farmers, landowners and the wider community in important work.
“We’d like to thank National Lottery players who have made this project possible.”
Richard Betton said: “The great thing about the Tees-Swale programme is that it harnesses farmers’ knowledge and experience passed on from generation to generation, to find a way forward where we can have environmental enhancement and sustainability, as well as economic sustainability for the farming sector.”
The collaborative approach sees the AONB Partnership and National Park Authority working together across two designated landscapes and involving farmers, landowners, conservation organisations, communities, volunteers and partner organisations.
The public benefits delivered will include climate change mitigation, flood-risk management, and tackling biodiversity loss.
Throughout the 5 year programme an innovative mix of art, community engagement and rights of way improvements will give people the opportunity to discover, explore and enjoy the stunning landscapes of Upper Teesdale and Swaledale. Traineeships, knowledge-exchange schemes and volunteering will also strengthen skills in farming communities and empower a future rural workforce.
More information is available at https://www.northpennines.org.uk/what_we_do/tees-swale-naturally-connected/
A recording of the launch event can be viewed using the link: https://youtu.be/ppfv93q9Gdk