AMBITIOUS plans to create a two-mile countryside walking and cycling route next to Coventry city centre have been awarded Severn Trent’s Community Fund ever largest grant in the West Midlands.
The Historic Coventry Trust (HCT) will receive £198,460 to complete a 330m long section of the former railway Loop Line from the fund, created for community groups and projects that aim to improve community wellbeing.
The grant is not only the largest the fund has given in the West Midlands – it is also the closest to Severn Trent’s headquarters with the project less than a mile from the water provider’s offices in Coventry.
Historic Coventry Trust will use the grant to transform the central section of the former Loop Line as part of the planned route along the River Sherbourne and through woodland around Charterhouse Heritage Park.
The railway line was originally built as a bypass around Coventry station for goods traffic in 1914 and was closed in 1963.
Since then it has been fenced off and forgotten, naturally regenerating as a dense woodland corridor bringing wildlife close into the city centre.
The trust acquired the Loop Line from private owners in 2018 to preserve it as a community asset.
The circular route will also be a history trail, providing a direct link between two ancient sites with close connection to King Richard II – Charterhouse, which he founded in 1385, and Gosford Green where ‘the duel that never was’ took place in 1398.
The duel, between Henry Bolingbroke, later Henry IV, and Thomas Mowbray, the first Duke of Norfolk, started the War of the Roses and resulted in Richard losing the crown and his life.
The Trust is recruiting a team of community volunteers who will maintain the woodland space, with educational activities organised with nearby schools and community groups. Future plans include an art trail similar to the High Line in New York.
As well as providing the capital funding, Severn Trent will also support the cost of a part-time park ranger for two years who will be responsible for recruiting and engaging volunteers. They will build a sustainable team that will continue working with Historic Coventry Trust at the Charterhouse Heritage Park.
Sue Heyes, Severn Trent’s community fund officer at Severn Trent, said they were so proud to be supporting such a fantastic local project that would create a lasting legacy for years.
“We believe this project will not only bring massive environmental benefits, but will also play a huge role for Coventry and the people who live here in terms of volunteering, boosting wellbeing and encouraging communities to connect with nature.”
Graham Tait, assistant director at the Trust, said they were grateful for Severn Trent’s support.
“It really is a magical place, a stretch of countryside woodland right in the heart of the city.”
There are two schools bordering the Loop Line and it will become a great place for local children to engage with nature and also encourage local residents to lead healthier lives.
“We also hope it will help people to learn new skills since we will be engaging volunteers and the local community in landscape management and maintenance, and providing education opportunities on wildlife and heritage.
“This project will not only enhance the area, but will also improve access to the heritage park, protect and enhance biodiversity, and provide wellbeing benefits to the local community and visitors to Coventry during and after UK City of Culture year 2021.
“The walking and cycling route will provide access for people in Gosford Green and Stoke to the natural environment of the Heritage Park and the River Sherbourne and we hope give them a real sense of pride in their area.”