THE lighting of a beacon at Beeston Castle has marked the start of an ambitious three year project centred on the natural and historic heritage of Cheshire’s Sandstone Ridge.

Cheshire County Council and partners have received £1,395,000 of funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). The money will be used to conserve the Ridge’s six Iron Age hillforts and wildlife habitats and encourage more people to visit, learn about and become more involved in the area’s landscape heritage

Around two square kilometres of the 20 square kilometres of the Sandstone Ridge is involved in the project stretching from Helsby Hill to Maiden Castle at Bickerton.

The award has been made through HLF’s Landscape Partnership Scheme, an innovative programme which enables community partnerships to work together to enhance and protect the historic character of their local landscapes.

The Sandstone Ridge is one of Cheshire’s most distinctive landscape features, standing prominently above the surrounding plain. It has a strong cultural and natural character with concentrations of woodland, heathland, peatland and a chain of hill top Iron Age forts all set within a framework of attractive sandstone buildings, boundary walls and sunken lanes.

The Habitats and Hillforts project will improve the condition of the hillforts and associated heritage features and restore and increase natural habitats in their vicinity.

It will also make the hillforts more accessible by improving access where appropriate and linking them to the Sandstone Trail. Interpretation of the historical landscape and natural habitats and the management work being carried out to enhance them is an integral element of the project, together with the involvement of local communities through the provision of volunteering and training opportunities.

County council chairman Steve Wilkinson said: “We are delighted by the generous support from the Heritage Lottery Fund which will enable us to continue our vision to improve the landscape heritage of Cheshire’s Sandstone Ridge.

“It is a unique and special area that has attracted the interest of people down through the ages.

“The funding will benefit greatly those who currently live, work and visit the area, as well as future generations to come.”

If you would like further information about the scheme or would like to get involved, please visit or email

The Habitats and Hillforts steering group is led by Cheshire County Council and includes Cheshire Community Action, English Heritage, Forestry Commission, The National Trust, The Woodland Trust, Vale Royal Borough Council, Cheshire Landscape Trust, a representative from the Training Group and a representative from the Local Parishes Group.