Cheshire West and Chester benefits from a large number of environmental assets, some of which have European protection. These include parts of the Dee and Mersey Estuaries, Oakmere, Midland Meres and West Midland Mosses. In addition there are 28 sites are designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest covering more than 5,199.

The borough also has:

  • 8 Areas of Special County Value (ASCV);
  • 286 Site of Biological Importance (SBI) covering 4259ha;
  • 39 Areas of Nature Conservation value, 4 Strategic Wildlife Areas, and 215 Sites of Nature Conservation Value;
  • 6 Local Nature Reserves covering 104ha;
  • 3634 ha of woodland (including Delamere Forest), of which 651 ha is Ancient Woodland;
  • 31 Cheshire Biodiversity Action Plan habitats (including 17 UK BAP priority habitats;
  • in the region of 6,700 ponds; and
  • 24 regionally important Geological and Geomorphological Sites wholly or partially in Cheshire West and Chester.

Rural Regeneration West Cheshire will focus on a number of key actions including:

  1. Positive future for ‘At Risk Sites’
  2. Work with local communities and interest groups to identify and record locally important heritage assets.
  3. Re.vitalising Green Belt villages
  4. Developing ecological networks
  5. Support The Sandstone Ridge Trust vision for AONB status by 2020.
  6. Complement Green Infrastructure strategies developed in the wider area

The Sandstone Ridge Trust

The Cheshire Sandstone Ridge is the most prominent landscape feature in Cheshire. Though small in comparison with the neighbouring hills of North Wales and the Peak District, it is significant because it stands right in the middle of the Cheshire Plain. That made it important to past inhabitants who were looking for a safe and fertile environment to make their home. Of particular interest on the ridge are six iron age hill forts and a variety of habitats including woodland, heath and wetland side by side with what is now productive farmland.

The Sandstone Ridge Trust was formally established in 2011 with the goal of protecting and enhancing the wildlife habitats and historic heritage on and around the Sandstone Ridge, not only building on the work of the Habitats and Hillforts Scheme  (which focused on the chain of historically important hill top Iron Age hillforts that lines Cheshire’s Sandstone Ridge) , but also with the potential to identify new activities and initiatives.

In so doing, the Sandstone Ridge Trust will be working tirelessly to ensure that both current and future generations of people, both local and more distant, can appreciate, understand and participate in the protection and management of this important landscape mosaic.

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.

The Sandstone Ridge Trust were awarded  £49,300 in 2014  from the Heritage Lottery Fund(HLF) for an exciting new project, The Ridge Rocks and Springs – a sandstone legacy.  The focus will be on quarries and methods of extraction, and on historic water supplies as well as springs with reputations for religious, magical or healing properties. There will also be stories to be read from the many carvings on the rocks.

Previous work

The Sandstone Ridge Trust has grown from previous projects in the area, from Life ECOnet Project through to Heritage Lottery Funded The Habitats and Hillforts Landscape Partnership Scheme which focused on the chain of historically important hill top Iron Age hillforts that lines Cheshire’s Sandstone Ridge. Heritage Lottery Fund Landscape Partnership Schemes are constructed around thematic programmes informed by the condition and needs of the landscape and that of the local community and other users.