The High Weald Partnership has secured a £200,000 grant to help reduce the visual impact of electricity transmission lines running through the area’s historic medieval landscape by restoring ancient hedgerows and planting trees.
Supported by funding from the National Grid’s Landscape Enhancement Initiative (LEI), the ‘Beautiful Boundaries’ project will use a range of measures aimed at screening the lines from view at key points within the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, while also maintaining and restoring the area’s distinctive boundary features.
Over the next three years, the High Weald Partnership will work with a number of landowners in the Wealden and Rother districts of East Sussex to rejuvenate ancient hedgerows. Particular focus will be placed on locations where the lines can be seen from the area’s extensive network of public rights of way including promoted paths such as the 1066 Walk and the Sussex Border Path. Other planned activities include fencing woodland to prevent damage to rare plants by grazing animals and planting hedges and trees.
The project is designed to increase enjoyment of the landscape for both residents and visitors to the area and also to create more varied and rich habitats for a greater number of bird, mammal and invertebrate species.
Jason Lavender, High Weald Co-Director, said: “The High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is an internationally-important landscape characterised by a mosaic of interconnected small woods, fields, shaws and hedges – a significant portion of which are ancient and species-rich. We know how costly it is for landowners to properly maintain these historic features, so we’re delighted to have secured this funding from the Landscape Enhancement Initiative to support the ‘Beautiful Boundaries’ project.
“This project presents a unique opportunity to work with local landowners to maintain and restore a key component of the High Weald’s medieval field systems, maintaining the area’s distinctive local character and ensuring that its historic boundaries continue to represent and tell the stories of centuries of human interaction with the land.”
The LEI has set aside up to £24 million to support small-scale landscape projects in the 30 AONBs and National Parks across England and Wales that contain existing National Grid electricity infrastructure. The initiative is part of the Visual Impact Provision project, which will make use of a £500 million allowance made available by Ofgem until 2021. In addition, National Grid is progressing plans under this allowance to replace existing overhead lines with underground cables in four protected landscapes.*
Environmentalist and broadcaster Chris Baines, who chairs the Visual Impact Provision project’s national Stakeholder Advisory Group, said: “Through the LEI we hope to make a positive contribution towards preserving and enhancing the natural beauty, landscape character, cultural heritage, wildlife and biodiversity in England and Wales’ most precious landscapes.
“It was pleasing to see applications for the funding from so many inspiring projects. I look forward to watching their progress as they work to help to make these beautiful areas even more enjoyable to visit.”
The next round of the LEI is now open for expressions of interest. Further information on who can apply and how to do it can be found at lei.nationalgrid.com. .