Bennerley Viaduct Selected for Inclusion in 2020 World Monuments Watch List

Bennerley Viaduct, the grade II* listed Victorian wrought iron structure straddling the Derbyshire/Nottinghamshire boundary, has gained international recognition by its inclusion in the 2020 World Monuments Watch list.  The railway viaduct, still on Historic England’s at-risk register, is one of just 25 projects selected from a competitive pool of 250 nominations worldwide, and the only site to be chosen in Britain this year.  All the sites included in the 2020 World Monuments Watch List were selected to support communities who are striving to save sites of outstanding cultural importance.

Bennerley Viaduct – A Site of Outstanding Cultural Importance

World Monuments Watch is run by the New York based World Monuments Fund, a private non-profit organisation, which sponsors an ongoing programme for the conservation of cultural heritage worldwide. The World Monuments Fund identifies endangered sites and works with local communities both to conserve their heritage and to explore ways of ensuring its long-term stewardship.

The Friends of Bennerley Viaduct, who submitted the application, and owners Railway Paths Ltd, are delighted by this massive boost to their joint project. Kieran Lee of the Friends said:

 “Inclusion in the World Monuments Watch List is recognition of the cultural significance of the viaduct and of its potential to improve people’s lives. Over the next two years we’ll benefit from the support and advice of heritage experts and increase our chances of gaining further funding for our project.”  

Chair of the Friends group, Jeff Wynch, added:

“Our group has come a long way since its first meeting in 2015, but we need to grow and develop so that we can secure the site’s long-term future. This new partnership with the World Monuments Watch could not have come at a better time.”

Securing a long term future of the “Iron Giant” is a key aim
for the Friends of Bennerley Viaduct

John Darlington, Executive Director of the World Monument Fund, Britain paid this tribute to the viaduct:

“Bennerley is an extraordinary monument – special because of its historical importance as the longest wrought iron viaduct in Britain, but also special because of what it means to the local community. It’s a delightful opportunity to showcase heritage and its contribution to health, wellbeing and as a home to nature. We’re so pleased that is has made it onto the 2020 Watch, and look forward to a catalytic partnership.”

John Darlington, Executive Director of the World Monument Fund (Britain)
examines the wrought iron piers at the Viaduct

Plans to repair and restore Bennerley Viaduct and to create access to a new deck were approved this summer, and enough funds have been raised for the project to start in Autumn 2019. Recent weeks have seen a massive volunteer effort to relocate great crested newts, so that repair work on the brick piers can begin and vegetation has been cleared to create access for contractors.  Public engagement with the project continues to grow in all respects from increased membership and volunteer numbers to oversubscribed guided walks and attendances at illustrated talks. International recognition from the World Monument Watch will add to the amazing momentum that the project is generating.

The Great Crested Newts of Bennerley Viaduct in Safe Hands

A Bit about Our Newts

Best of Both Worlds

The amphibious Great Crested Newt spends most of its life on land, so protecting terrestrial habitat is just as important as conserving water sources. They like hedgerows and boggy grassland where they can hunt for invertebrates in summer and autumn, and safe hidden spaces to lie dormant during the winter. It is not full hibernation, but newts will seek out a muddy bank or compost heap to wait out the colder months. The conditions at Bennerley Viaduct are ideal for Great Crested Newts

Great Crested Newts (c) Jeremy Wyatt
Illustration by Jeremy Wyatt

Dancing Queens

When the temperature rises at the start of spring, the male grows his eponymous great crest which signals the beginning of the breeding season. From April to May male Great Crested Newts ‘dance’ using their impressive tails to waft pheromones to entice females. The great crest is then re-absorbed by the male after mating season ends.

Smooth and Great Crested Newt eggs

Newt Nursery

Female newts lay around 200 eggs. Each individual egg is then meticulously wrapped in a carefully chosen pond plant leaf. The tadpoles will then spend around 4 months in the water before their ‘metamorphosis’ into 7cm newtlets.

Great Crested Newt Belly (c) Philip Precey
Photo by Philip Precey

One of a kind

Each Great Crested Newt has a unique pattern of black spots on their orange underbelly, which helps scientists to track their movements. They can easily be distinguished from palmate, and smooth newts, as unlike our other natives they have textured skin and a warty appearance.

Pond predators

The tadpole of the Great Crested Newt will feed on just about anything they can find, including insect larvae, frog and toad tadpoles. As adults, they are even more voracious and will eat juvenile newts and feast on frogspawn. Newt tadpoles are predated on by great diving beetles and fish. If they make it to adulthood, they develop the ability to secrete toxic chemical in their skin to protecting them from predators.

What’s in a name?

A juvenile newly metamorphosed newt is called an newtlet or eft, from the Old English name for the species ewt. The Great Crested Newt’s Latin name Triturus Cristatus comes from the Greek God Triton, son of Poseidon and his Tritons, the satyrs of the sea.

In literature

Shakespeare’s witches in Macbeth famously required “Eye of newt, and toe of frog” to stir into their bubbling cauldron. There is some debate as to whether this is a reference to the amphibian’s body part or a colloquial herbalist’s term for mustard seeds.

Exacting Requirements

Great Crested Newts are very particular in their requirements, and will travel up to 1 km to find the right pond. So if they are present in an area it’s a great indicator of the health of a water source. The water in the settlement lagoons and the expanse of land under the viaduct and on the old coal plant makes Bennerley a haven for newts.

The settlement ponds are ideal breeding ponds for newts

(This article was adapted from the Wildlife Trust’s website)

Newt Volunteer Workdays

There will be four volunteer workdays in October, the focus of which will be the rehoming of our resident newt population. We need to prepare all the pier bases for restoration and it is likely that there will be Great Crested Newts loving in the cracks in the brickwork. The newts need to be rehoused into new newt shelters of hibernaculae.

These workdays will take place at the following dates and times.


Wednesday 23rd Oct – Pier bases – Newt relocation 9:30 am – 3:30 pm
Thursday 24th Oct  – Pier Bases – Newt Relocation 9:30 am – 3:30 pm

Friday 25th Oct – Pier Bases – Newt Relocation 9:30 am – 3:30 pm
Saturday 26th Oct. – Pier bases – Newt relocation. 9:30 am to 3:30 pm

This work will involve the following.
Removing loose brickwork (strenuous)
Stacking and cleaning loose brickwork, (Moderate)
Digging out pathways around pier bases, Strenuous
Constructing  6 hibernacula  (Moderate)
Clearing all debris from pier bases.
Making all surfaces sound ready for contractors.
Clearing all vegetation from around the pier bases.
An example of a hibernacula or newt shelter

The workdays will take place under the supervision of a licensed ecologist as Great Crested Newts are a protected species. Please contact Kieran at kieran.lee@bennerleyviaduct.org.uk if you want to take part. There are currently spaces on Friday 25th and Saturday 26th. Please be on time for the start of the sessions as there will be a briefing for participants prior to work taking place.

This work has to take place prior to October 31st as a pre commencement planning condition. If the newts are not safely rehoused prior to the 31st, there will be a considerable delay to the works. Your help is therefore critical to the project. Out thanks go to those who have already volunteered. Please get in touch if you can support on either the Friday or Saturday.

Green Light to Re-open Bennerley Viaduct

Plans to bring Bennerley Viaduct back into use as a spectacular walkway high above across the Erewash Valley have been given the green light by both Erewash and Broxtowe Borough Councils. 

The Erewash Borough Council planning committee voted unanimously to pass the planning application stating it was a fantastic development which would become a brilliant asset to the area. They welcomed the positive impact the project would have on the health and wellbeing of the community. One councillor commented that we should all be proud of “Cotmanhay’s Eiffel Tower”.

Broxtowe Borough Council also fully supported the plans.

The grade 2* structure which straddles the Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire border has been closed for the last 50 years. The project will carry out critical repairs to the structure and create access both on top of and underneath the viaduct. The viaduct will create an important link in the area’s extensive trail network connecting the Erewash and Nottingham Canals.

Commenting on the decision, Bill Tomson from Railway Paths, the Viaduct’s owners said “These decisions are a real milestone in Bennerley Viaduct’s history. We are delighted with the outcome. The project will bring a historic structure back into use and encourage walking and cycling in an inspirational location.”

Jeff Wynch, the chair of the Friends of Bennerley Viaduct stated:  “We are delighted with the decisions from both Councils which enable this exciting initiative to move forwards. The project will create new opportunities for active recreation and enjoyment and will extend the life of the viaduct for future generations to enjoy. We are grateful to the councils, owners and funders who share our vision to bring this iconic structure back into public use.”

Paul Miller, the chair of the Ilkeston and District History Society said: “This is fantastic news. The viaduct is a locally and nationally important structure. It is a tribute to the ingenuity of our Victorian engineers and the awesome endeavours of 19th century railway pioneers. The decision to bring this historic structure back to life for the community to enjoy is one which we welcome wholeheartedly.”

Although a large proportion of the funding has been raised, there is still a shortfall.  Over the next few months, The Friends of Bennerley Viaduct will be busy fundraising to enable the community to contribute to the viaduct’s future and have a real stake in the project. The construction and access works are due to start this Autumn with the reopening taking place in 2020.

Forthcoming Volunteer Workdays 2018

Volunteer Workdays take place on a monthly basis and can involve a range of tasks concerned with the practical management of the viaduct environment.  The proposed dates for Volunteer workdays for the first half of this year will be:

Saturday February 3rd:  10:00am start

Saturday March 3rd:  10:00am start

saturday April 7th:  10:00am start

Saturday May 12th:  10:00am start

Saturday June 2nd:  10:00am start

We meet underneath the viaduct. Access from Newtons Lane. The barrier on the track leading to the viaduct will be open at 9:30 am.

Details of the activities to be undertaken will be published on this site on the week prior to the workday. The environmental management of the site will be guided by the Sustrans ecologists and engineers. tasks undertaken could include: vegetation management and removal, habitat creation, clearing pier bases, litter clearance etc.

Tools are provided. If you are attending a workday, could you let Kieran Lee know so he can ensure that there are adequate tools to enable people to do the jobs required. Contact kieran.lee@sustrans.org.uk

 

The Force is with us.

The sun shone and thousands turned out to the classic car show in Ilkeston. The Friends of Bennerley Viaduct had a stall which was busy all day. There was overwhelming support for the project.

The force was clearly with us as notable visitors to our stall was Darth Vader accompanied by  Star Wars stormtroopers. We were even visited by petrolhead Stig who promised to  invest in a pushbike when Bennerley Viaduct reopens.

We heard many fascinating stories about the viaduct. It was empowering to experience the depth of support that this project is receiving from  the local community. Thanks to Jeff for organising the day and to Rich, Colin and Trevor for their sterling work promoting the viaduct.

20841196_1982461848664205_8440414226450121509_n20883063_1982460645330992_5290717610584082495_n

“Every Little Helps” Bennerley Viaduct Exhibition goes to Tesco

With a weekly footfall of over 30,000 local shoppers,  both Sustrans and the Friends of Bennerley Viaduct  were  delighted when Tesco offered to host our exhibition over the months of June and July.  The scale model of the viaduct really caught the attention of shoppers as it was installed near the checkouts. The model of the viaduct brought back memories to many shoppers who retold stories of travelling over and playing under the viaduct in the days when steam trains ran out of Ilkeston.

Kieran Lee, Community Engagement Officer of the project is delighted with the response of the community and grateful to Tesco’s for their support for the project. He said “Displaying the Exhibition in Tescos is a brilliant way of engaging the local community with the project to reopen Bennerley Viaduct as a walking and cycling Trail. The response that we have had from the community has been truly magnificent. We hope to capture some of those important stories which are an important part of the viaduct’s rich history”

Angie Young, Community Champion for TESCO said “The Bennerley Viaduct is an important local landmark and we see this important work as a positive step to bringing community cohesion firstly through volunteering opportunities and also employment opportunities to a deprived community at a later date.   Angie added “This area is full of natural beauty and historic interest which will be opened up for both local people and those from farther afield.”

Have a look at the exhibition if you are going to Tescos – We are getting more leaflets printed and they should be in the store soon.

“Raleigh” in the Valley

On the weekend of May 6th and 7th, over sixty cyclists took part in this historic event with Raleigh providing a fleet  of the art electric bikes. People came from as far afield as Manchester and Crewe for the event where groups pedalled on  the Erewash Valley Trail from the Raleigh HQ in Eastwood to Bennerley Viaduct. Riding through this part of D.H.Lawrence country on the e bikes was an absolute joy for all involved.

The event put bikes and Bennerley together and the event widened the number of people who  learned about Bennerley Viaduct and the exciting plans for it. One lady on completing the trip to the viaduct said it was the best couple of hours that she had spent in years.

We hope to run further events  with Raleigh and hopefully, we will be able to ride across the deck of the viaduct in the not too distant future.

 

Lapwing Event

Lapwing Event.
This is a free guided walk by Jim Steele celebrating the beauty of the creatures that live near the viaduct. meet in Newtons Lane Car Park, off Shilo Way at 10:00am on Sunday April 23rd.

Raleighing Around the Iron Giant.

The Raleigh company has been around for a long time, but not quite as long as the Bennerley Viaduct! The cycle maker started its life on Raleigh Street in 1885, once had a works in Ilkeston and now has its main showroom and distribution centre in Eastwood just a short bike ride away from the viaduct. What could be more natural than for the cycle giant and the “Iron Giant” to join forces?

You have the unique opportunity to discover the wonders of Bennerley Viaduct on a Raleigh electric bike on a weekend event on the 6th and 7th of May.

Starting at Raleigh UK in Eastwood, you will get the opportunity to hear about the history of Bennerley Viaduct and its future plans whilst enjoying light refreshments. You can also browse all the latest Raleigh electric bikes in their new showroom before being kitted out with a Raleigh electric bike.

Once kitted our, you will ride in a group on the Erewash Valley Trail to Bennerley Viaduct where you will hear about Sustrans exciting plans to bring the viaduct back into use as a centrepiece of the areas walking and cycling trails.

There will be two rides on both Saturday and Sunday taking place at 10:00 am and 2:00 pm on both days. The event  is likely to be heavily oversubscribed so places will be allocated on a first come first served basis. In order to book a place, please BOOK HERE