Background

The Sandstone Ridge lies between Frodsham and Bickerton, and includes:

•  an area covering 20,000 hectares or 9.5% of Cheshire

•  a population of approximately 34,000 people

•  the pre-eminent landscape feature in Cheshire which has had a significant impact on the cultural, social and environmental history and character of the county

•  extensive heritage interests including 3 Areas of Special Value for Landscape (ASCVs), 4 Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs – 7 of which are of European importance), 88 Sites of Biological Importance (SBIs), 78 meres and mosses, 28 ancient woodlands, 9 hillforts, 4 Roman Roads, 305 listed buildings, 40 Scheduled Monuments, 87 medieval sites, 20 ancient burial grounds

•  extensive involvement with, and the support of, all sections of the community, 400 farmers and landowners, 1,000 businesses, 44 Villages and Town and Parish Councils along the Ridge

The ‘Ridge’ is not actually a single unit but a complex landscape of rolling hills and sandstone escarpments, punctuated by areas of lower-lying ground and is recognised as being nationally distinctive. The area is essentially rural in character, being dominated by a patchwork of small fields,interspersed with larger areas of woodland. Settlement is largely composed of farms, many occupying the same site since at least the later middle ages, as well as hamlets and villages. The area includes parts of two larger settlements, the small market towns of Frodsham, and Helsby, both at the extreme north west of the area. This area broadly reflects the Cheshire Sandstone Ridge Joint Character Area (JCA62) as identified by Natural England.

Previous Work

The Sandstone Ridge Trust has grown from previous projects in the area. The area was chosen as the first of three implementation phases in Cheshire County Council’s long-term ambition to create an ecological network for  Cheshire by 2020.  Scientific analysis carried out in 2002-03 as part of the Life ECOnet Project indicated that the development of this area deserves the highest ecological priority, containing a potential chain of interconnected woodland networks, alternating with two interconnected heathland networks and two isolated but locally sustainable peatland networks. It also contains priority areas for grassland development.

The projects include:

Life ECOnet

The Sandstone Ridge ECOnet Partnership

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The Sandstone Ridge ECOnet Partnership had the support and funding of Cheshire County Council and other partners including Natural England, the National Trust, Cheshire Community Council, Forestry Commission and local landowners, local businesses and communities. Research showed that the creation of an “ecological network” along the Ridge would take five years to implement (2005-10), but its impact on everyone who lives and works in the area would be far longer-lasting.  The “recovery and return” of the Ridge’s special habitats (peatlands, heathlands, woodlands and meadows) as part of a functioning ecological network of large habitat areas and corridors would:

•  boost the rural economy through the diversification of farm incomes and the county’s increased recreational appeal 

•  increase people’s contact with nature, improving understanding and changing attitudes, as well as health and wellbeing

•  encourage development and land use planning to work with, and not against, nature by using the network as guidance