• River Garnock 02

    Garnock Connections

    Connecting people and places within the Landscape

Garnock Connections secures Heritage Lottery Fund award

The Garnock Connections Landscape Partnership which brings together communities and projects across North Ayrshire and Renfrewshire has been awarded £1.35m by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

With additional funding already in place, Garnock Connections will now officially launch this April and run until March 2022, covering an area stretching from the Muirshiel Hills to Irvine Bay, with the River Garnock at its heart.

The funding award comes at the end of a year of development by partners and communities, who have been working together to shape the programme and its suite of projects. These include ambitious plans to bring pollinating insects back to the landscape, tackle river pollution and breathe new life into important historical sites such as the Garnock Tug and the Peel Tower.

The partnership will also develop innovative ways for people to access their local heritage, with tools ranging from wheelchair beach buggies to 3D visualisation of the area’s historical buildings.

Lucy Casot, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund in Scotland, said: “Our species and habitats are under constant threat yet they make a massive contribution to our economy. The enormous pressures upon them mean that we have to approach landscape restoration and conservation on a bigger scale than ever before. Thanks to funding from the National Lottery, Garnock Connections will bring real cohesion to the natural and built heritage of the area with a diverse range of fascinating projects and activities. I would urge everyone to get involved, to uncover, cherish and have fun with the heritage that is yours.”

Alex Page, the Garnock Connections Project Manager, said: “We’re delighted that HLF has recognised both the importance of this area, and the fantastic opportunities available to enhance its heritage for the benefit of communities and visitors. The people and communities of the Garnock Connections area are at the core of the programme, and there will be lots of opportunities for training, volunteering and learning so keep an eye on the project website and follow us on Facebook and Twitter for updates.”

Garnock Connections is a suite of 25 projects that will restore a network of wildlife habitats and historic sites across the landscape, as well as encourage local people to become involved through public engagement opportunities.

The initiative will be coordinated by the Garnock Connections Landscape Partnership, which is made up of RSPB Scotland (lead partner), North Ayrshire Council, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), and the Scottish Wildlife Trust, with Historic Environment Scotland (HES) acting as an advisory body.

Community-based charity Eadha Enterprises is just one of the projects involved. CEO Peter Livingstone, said: "Eadha is excited to be part of this ambitious project to transform the area. Garnock Connections will enable us to deliver our Growing for Garnock project, which will result in thousands of wildflowers and trees being propagated and planted across the area by the local community."

David Mann, director of the Scottish Maritime Museum, which will be the hub for several projects, said: “The Scottish Maritime Museum is delighted to be part of Garnock Connections, particularly as we will see the Irvine Harbour Tug, MV Garnock, become a focus for visitors and community groups to view the exciting wildlife on the Bogside Flats SSSI using digital technology. We are also looking forward to working with the local community to construct coastal rowing boats at our boatbuilding school."

The Garnock Connections area has many, largely unknown, sites of natural and historical significance. Hen harriers can be found on the Muirshiel uplands, and the saltmarshes and mud flats of the unusual double estuary at Irvine provide a vital overwintering refuge for wading birds. The estuary was also once home to the largest dynamite factory in the world. Further inland, the master craftsmen of Beith supplied furniture to ocean liners such as the RMS Queen Mary and the RMS Queen Elizabeth II.

Any one of these cultural or natural heritage features should be considered nationally significant in their own right. However, it is the combination of all of them, sharing a rich history of adaptation and change, shaped by the landscape, and linked by the river, which makes the Garnock Connections area a truly significant and unique place.

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