The Magic of the Marsh...

The Magic of the Marsh...

Our Connectivity Programme Manager Paul Hadaway reflects on the hard work and tireless efforts of the Kent Wildlife Teams and supporters for the Fifth Continent Landscape Partnership Scheme project for Romney Marsh.

It’s been six years in the making, taken three attempts and an awful lot of blood (metaphorical for the most part), sweat (especially those two o'clock in the morning ones) and not a few tears (although don’t ever ask me to admit it) but Kent Wildlife Trust have recently received the wonderful news from Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) that we have been successful in receiving £1.76m towards a £2.4m project on Romney Marsh – the Fifth Continent Landscape Partnership Scheme.

Dungeness by Jim Higham

Landscape Partnerships are one of the largest HLF schemes, drawing together diverse groups of partners to deliver projects which protect and enhance the built and natural heritage of an area whilst reconnecting local communities to the landscapes they live in.

This funding scheme was identified as the perfect way to take forward the vision which Kent Wildlife Trust and partners had been working hard to develop for the Romney Marsh Living Landscape. The Living Landscape partnership was formed to enhance and promote the restoration of built and natural heritage on Romney Marsh, working closely with local communities, landowners, conservation groups and the local authorities. A diverse and sometimes tricky partnership to manage and direct, Kent Wildlife Trust staff chaired the group, provided a range of skills, experience and knowledge, chivvied, cajoled, led and worked with them all to eventually coalesce around a common set of objectives for the Marsh.

These objectives formed the basis of our application to HLF:

Restore - Facilitate the restoration, recreation and enhancement of the built and natural heritage of the area

Rediscover - Put the communities and people of the Marsh back at the centre of their landscape and heritage; enhance opportunities for visitors and locals alike

Reclaim - Develop opportunities for learning and skills development 

Lookers Hut - Sheep House by Ray Lewis

HLF were supportive of the project from the outset and throughout the different manifestations which led to eventual success and it is a testament to the 20+ partners we worked with; ranging from Shepway District Council, New Romney Town Council, Natural England, Environment Agency, KCC, Sussex Wildlife Trust, Romney Marsh Countryside Partnership, Internal Drainage Board, the Diocese of Canterbury, Marsh Academy, Romney Resource Centre, Short-Haired Bumblebee project and others; that they remained engaged and supportive throughout the ups and downs of unsuccessful bids and re-submissions, the collective strength and passion for the Marsh was something often commented on by HLF.

So here we are, after final success in 2014 we were awarded funding to further develop the project, leading to the publication in 2016 of the Landscape Conservation Action Plan, a 400+ page tome, part management plan, part landscape assessment, part history textbook and part project delivery bible for the next four years. This is the document which has unlocked the £1.76m we are now celebrating and which will see the recruitment of a new Kent Wildlife Trust team dedicated to its delivery and success.

Dungeness Lighthouse by Kent Wildlife Trust

And what will that success look like? Some of the highlights to look out for over the next few years include – restoration of vegetated shingle habitats on the Dungeness peninsula, enhancement of the ditch network and grazing marshes, work to promote the churches of the Marsh as community hubs, a landscape creativity programme with bursaries for groups to produce artwork which captures their feeling for their landscape, community engagement work, the Fifth Continent on film programme, rural skills training, a community archaeology big dig to discover the old port of Romney, sustainable tourism projects and a traineeship and apprenticeship programme led by partners which will see more than fifty young people receive accredited qualifications. 

You can see now why it took six years to create and what an amazing four years and beyond it will be for Romney Marsh and Kent Wildlife Trust’s work there.

None of this would have been possible without the support of the Trust and our members. Trust staff have led this process, arranged the meetings, chased partners, written the funding bids, drawn in the match funding, motivated, led, chased, created and shaped something very special for Romney Marshes and I for one am immensely proud of that achievement – and almost recovered enough from the experience to consider the next part of the county to become the focus of as much blood, sweat and tears. 

~ by Paul Hadaway, Connectivity Programme Manager at Kent Wildlife Trust