Pennine Prospects Watershed Landscape Project

Project summary

This project ran from 2010 until 2013. It was designed to conserve and enhance the environmental and heritage value of the upland area of the South Pennines, while improving access for all and bringing the story of the uplands to an urban audience. The project was supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund and was managed by Pennine Prospects in partnership with a wide range of organisations and local communities. It was the UK Government’s choice for the UK Landscape Award in 2012 and winner of a Europa Nostar Cultural Prize in 2013.

Project setting

The Watershed Landscape is the upland area of the South Pennines where east meets west, North Sea to Irish Sea, uniting Lancashire and Yorkshire along the way. Drinking water falls as rainfall here and is channelled into reservoirs that riddle the moorland. More than a million people live in or around the South Pennine uplands yet the area can still feel remote, wild and exhilarating: a place for reflection, relaxation and inspiration.

How an ecosystems approach is reflected in the work

The South Pennines was a Natural England pilot area for ecosystem services. Specifically, the Project/Pennine Prospects took a lead on identifying the ‘cultural services’ relating to ecosystem services. The project acted as a champion for one of the few upland areas in England that is non-designated, seeking to co-ordinate activity across administrative boundaries. It also served as a case study in the project 'Developing place based approaches for Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) in the English Uplands'.

Outputs and outcomes

Landscape restoration work was funded with project partners (including utility companies and local authorities). This included significant investment in causey paving to reduce visitor pressure on Ilkley Moor, and working closely with the RSPB to restore acid grassland on more than 40 farms as part of the Twite Recovery Project.

The project worked with more than 100 schools and 2,500 pupils, and nearly 1,500 volunteers gave 8,000 hours of their time. Social media #tweeting twite hosted an on-line discussion that attracted more than 100 organisations; education resources on Peat were downloaded from the TES website by 440 teachers and a forum was facilitated by consultants with conflict resolution competencies.

Project lead and partners

The project was managed by Pennine Prospects. Partners were Yorkshire Water, United Utilities, RSPB, Rochdale Council, Oldham Council, Calderdale Metropolitan Borough Council, Kirklees Metropolitan Borough Council, Bradford Metropolitan District Council, Lancashire County Council, Natural England, National Trust, Groundwork, West Yorkshire Geology Trust, and Friends of Ilkley Moor.


The project was funded by the South Pennines LEADER programme Heritage Lottery Fund.

What are the barriers

Partnerships take time and resource to build capacity and achieve results on the ground. Landscape partnerships should be realistic about the level of project delivery in the early phase.

There is a pay off between the size of the project area and the impact on local residents particularly when dealing with such a large urban hinterland, including major cities.

What lessons have been learnt

Landscape partnerships are fit for purpose and through capital and physical improvements to the landscape there is delivery of real social and economic benefits.

There is a demand within local communities to engage with their upland heritage through activities such as education and volunteering.

Projects should fit together as a coherent whole and present a strong narrative that enables the entire Landscape Partnership scheme to benefit from wider recognition.

Celebrating the success of the project is important and the value should not be underestimated. For the South Pennines, national and international awards have helped to reinforce partner and local community engagement.

What next

The project will leave its mark. Not only will the physical improvements such as the repaired drystone walls and the improved moorland footpaths remain there for many years, but the way we now think about the South Pennines will make a difference. Following the success of the project there is now an appetite to work across the watershed on a landscape scale.

For example, the project assisted Pennine Prospects in achieving Local Nature Partnership status for the South Pennines in 2012. This recognition by Government to deliver the objectives of the Natural Environment White Paper (2011) as part of a family of 50 partnerships nationally, enshrines landscape-scale working not just within Pennine Prospects but wider to its partners.

Further information

The final report on Developing place-based approaches for PES is available, along with a technical appendix that discusses how carbon sequestration services could be valued and potentially traded as part of a PES scheme.

An overview of the Natural England ecosystem services pilots is available, along with an evaluation report on the first phase of the three upland pilot projects (published in December 2012). More information is available from Jane Lusardi at Natural England. 

For more information, see the website and project leaflet or contact Robin Gray at Pennine Prospects.