The West Lancashire Light Railway Trust
wins Heritage Lottery Fund support
THE West Lancashire Light Railway Trust (WLLR)
are pleased to
announce that they have just received £10,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF)
for an exciting project.
The West Lancashire Light Railway is a narrow gauge railway (2' gauge)
located at Hesketh Bank, midway between Southport and Preston. The venture
was started as a hobby by 6 Southport and West Lancashire teenagers in 1967.
As the Railway approaches its 50th anniversary, it has grown to become a
charitable trust with over 150 volunteer members, and is seeking to develop
so that it is sustainable into the future. The former brickworks site on
which it is located is now proposed for redevelopment for housing, mixed
uses and a new linear park The plan is to develop the Railway into a strong,
quality heritage attraction as part of the proposed River Douglas Linear
Park. The extended railway would carry visitors within the Park, linking the
visitor centre and arrival point to riverbank footpaths, Becconsall Old
Church and the future England Coastal Path, on the way passing through
attractive woodland and alongside a lake.
The current HLF award is to fund a Foundation Project to pave the way for
the larger development project. The HLF funding will support the development
of a Business Plan and Management Structure for what would be a larger and
more complex operation. It will support key work with other stakeholders and
enable links to schools and colleges to be strengthened to promote the
planned facilities as a valuable resource for learning.
The West Lancashire Light Railway (WLLR) has saved historic narrow gauge railway
equipment from local industries and from around the world. Unfortunately the
majority of this equipment is currently not on public view. The present
focus for the volunteers is the operation of a short steam worked railway
that is open to the public on Sundays and Bank Holidays from Easter to
October. In addition to extending this line, the Trust is seeking to develop
a Narrow Gauge Railway Heritage Centre for the North West where the many
uses of narrow gauge railways can be displayed and interpreted. This would
be done in a way that opens up the world of past industries, mining,
quarrying and other fields of human endeavour. The North West of England is
rightly known for its pioneering industrial past where once narrow gauge
railways moved raw materials and manufactured products. The West Lancashire
Light Railway at Hesketh Bank is the only industrial narrow gauge centre in
the North West, operating and displaying this fascinating history.
The Heritage Centre would be combined with a Learning Facility which schools
and colleges could use for a variety of work, potentially as a base for some
courses. The Learning Facility would also have a role in keeping alive
heritage skills which are as important in conserving our history as
The other key aspect of the development project would be the creation of
good Visitor Facilities for the Railway and Park. Here there would be the
opportunity to present aspects of the interesting local history of the area,
including the former brickworks and maritime activities: port, boatyard,
fishing and ferrying.
Combined with the Park, the concept seeks to be attractive to a wide range
of people, visitors and volunteers. It seeks to strengthen the existing
community and volunteering culture, to draw more people into an active use
of their free time in connection with the Railway and other heritage work
where they can have the opportunity to develop new skills.
Commenting on the award, the Railway's Chairman, Mike Spall, said:-
"We are extremely pleased to have received the support of the Heritage
Lottery Fund for this preliminary work which represents a vote of confidence
in our plans to develop the Railway and in our organisation's members. The
funding is critical in enabling us to build robust foundations for
developing the Railway while ensuring that the heritage will have a
sustainable long term future as a quality visitor attraction and place for
discovery, learning and skills. Additionally, it will enable us to work with
other stakeholders to ensure that the River Douglas Linear Park is also a
success, because the Park and the Railway will depend on each other if both
are to thrive into the future. Together they will provide a strong community
asset. We will be using some of the funding for specialist consultancy
support and legal advice to help us work effectively toward these goals.''