More than 50 years after closing to freight traffic and passengers, Bennerley Viaduct was finally re-opened as a route for walkers and cyclists back in January.
The Grade II listed iron structure was repaired, restored and re-purposed by its owners Railway Paths Ltd in partnership with the Friends of Bennerley Viaduct (FoBV).
Now, a new project entitled ‘Bridging the Gap’ has begun, made possible by a £250,000 grant from The National Lottery Heritage Fund.
A team of three new project staff have been employed to manage the next phase, which will allow a programme of events and activities to take place at the viaduct – focusing on both history and the wellbeing of local communities.
The new project manager is Rebecca Morris-Buck, who leaves a role in the senior management team at Creswell Crags near Worksop, to join the ‘Bridging the Gap’ project.
Rebecca lives locally, in Eastwood, and has worked in the heritage sector for over a decade. Previous roles include one at Erewash Museum in Ilkeston and Nottingham’s Galleries of Justice Museum.
She said: “It’s a privilege to join the organisation at this pivotal moment, to be part of the team welcoming visitors to the viaduct and helping raise the profile of this important part of our local heritage.
“The viaduct is fascinating and beautiful in its own right, but we believe it can also be a catalyst for community events, partnerships health and wellbeing improvements, and a sense of pride in the area, as well as attracting further investment.”
The new heritage and engagement officer, who will be out and about talking to schools and community groups, is Kate Crossley, formerly collections officer and interim museum manager at Erewash Museum.
The new site ranger, who will be looking after the viaduct and surrounding area, working alongside volunteers, is Richard Raithby, who has a wide range of experience, and is also known locally for his creative glass work.
Jeff Wynch, chair of the Friends of Bennerley Viaduct committee, said the project has the potential to bring multiple benefits.
He said: “The opening was never going to be the end of the story, as far as we were concerned, but the next chapter could only be written if we developed as a group.
“Our new project will build on the excellent work of our many dedicated volunteers to establish the viaduct as a sustainable visitor attraction.
“It will also focus on important work like securing funding and permissions for an eastern ramp and facilities for visitors, culminating in a visitor centre.
“With all three staff in post by the start of May, and the ‘Bridging the Gap’ project getting underway immediately, there are sure to be a lot more exciting developments at Bennerley Viaduct this year, and beyond.”