Ridgeway To Get £96,100 Funding

Some of the UK's most treasured landscapes are set to receive millions of pounds in conservation money - including one site in Dorset.

The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has earmarked £18.3m to help provide ''long-term social, economic and environmental benefits'' for 11 areas.

The sites include ancient woodland, reedbeds, marshes, dunes and former industrial land.

Alongside conservation work, there will be a wide range of training opportunities on offer such as apprenticeships for disadvantaged youngsters, courses on hedgelaying, drystone walling and traditional dance and music sessions.

Dame Jenny Abramsky, HLF chair, said:

 ''Landscapes speak to the heart, inspiring people in all sorts of ways: be it poetry-writing, architectural design or even just the pleasure of looking at a beautiful view.

''Sadly, they can often be taken for granted which is why the Heritage Lottery Fund, as one of the UK's biggest funders of the natural heritage, believes the way forward is to put local communities in the driving seat so they can take care of the places that are the backdrop to their daily lives.

''Our Landscape Partnership programme has been a truly ground-breaking initiative, making a significant contribution to the way many organisations work together on landscape-scale conservation.''

So far, the 11 areas have been through the first round of bidding - and they have been guaranteed 'development' money to help with the second round of bidding.

They only get the full grant if they are successful at the second round - but bidding authorities would need to go badly wrong to not land the money, a source said.

The areas involved include the South Dorset Ridgeway - a picturesque stretch of land between Dorchester and Weymouth dating from the Neolithic and Bronze Ages; £96,100 development funding, £1.9m possible full grant.

Environment Minister Richard Benyon said:

''These sites are among the best of British views. The Heritage Lottery Fund is helping encourage partnerships across the country to protect and improve some of our most cherished landscapes.

''This funding will allow people to come together and learn valuable skills which will benefit the environment around them, protecting wildlife and maintaining our cultural heritage for years to come.''