Today, The Sandstone Ridge Trust has received £49,300 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for an exciting new project, The Ridge Rocks and Springs – a sandstone legacy, to be conducted over the next three years throughout the length of the Cheshire Sandstone Ridge. The Trust is now looking for volunteers from the local communities to join in the project, researching the lost quarries and wells of the Ridge, seeking out their stories and recording them for posterity.
The beautiful Ridge, where Cheshire rises from the plain in a series of rolling hills and dramatic sandstone cliffs, boasts a wealth of historic and natural heritage, from Iron Age hillforts to important heathland, and the project aims to understand how the sandstone and water supplies have enabled settlers, farmers and industrialists through the ages to develop this environment. The focus will be on quarries and methods of extraction, and on historic water supplies as well as springs with reputations for religious, magical or healing properties.
There will also be stories to be read from the many carvings on the rocks. The discovery of a boulder with prehistoric carving from Eddisbury hillfort during recent excavations raised the tantalising possibility that other rock-carvings may exist locally and the project will include examination of the rock faces for graffiti and other signs of human activity through the ages. Much of this history is in danger: the rocks are eroding, quarries are being filled in, the wells are drying up and memories are fading. This is an important opportunity to rescue and record undervalued features of our history.
The volunteers will receive free training workshops to learn more about how to research these features of the Ridge and they will be able to take part in a variety of practical research and recording activities with progress-meetings and get-togethers to share and exchange information. The results will be made available through the publication of print and digital materials, guided walks and on-site interpretation panels.
Commenting on the award, Peter Winn, Sandstone Ridge trustee, said: “This is a wonderful opportunity to continue the work of the recent Habitats and Hillforts project which was also funded by HLF. We are hoping that many volunteers with interests in local history will join the teams up and down the Ridge and help to raise awareness of what a beautiful and fascinating place it is.
Sara Hilton, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund North West, said: “The Ridge contains hidden clues as to the way our ancestors lived and how this part of Cheshire developed into what it is today. By delving into this history, volunteers will not only expand their knowledge and learn lots of new skills, but it will also provide a unique record of the area for others to learn, enjoy and be inspired by.”