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The Bodmin & Wenford Railway has been announced as one of the successful recipients of funding in the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s first wave of Culture Recovery Fund for Heritage grants.

An award of £260,000 has secured the future of one of Cornwall’s most popular heritage attractions, which had up to now been hanging in the balance.

Bodmin & Wenford Railway is one of 445 heritage organisations across the country set to receive a lifesaving financial boost from the government thanks to the £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund to help them through the coronavirus pandemic.

445 organisations will share £103 million, including Bodmin & Wenford Railway, to help restart vital reconstruction work and maintenance on cherished heritage sites, keeping venues open and supporting those working in the sector.

The railway, which typically carries around 60,000 visitors each year on a unique journey back in time, closed the doors in early 2020 at the start of the covid-19 crisis and has yet to fully reopen. Whilst Bodmin General, the railway’s 1950s Cornish branch line station has recently reopened to the public on select dates, the railway has not seen steam or heritage diesel engines carrying passengers along its branches to Boscarne and Parkway since February.

David Nelson-Brown, Chairman of the Bodmin & Wenford Railway PLC said:

“This year has been hugely challenging for all here at the railway. We’re hugely grateful for this award, which is absolutely vital to the survival of the railway beyond this winter. The money received will cover our core costs, enable us to continue a small amount of essential restoration work and support us as an organisation to adapt for the future including reopening costs, covid-19 measures and digital ticketing. There are still many challenges ahead but we’re delighted that the railway has been recognised as an invaluable heritage location and a unique experience here in Cornwall. We can now continue with the hard work, supported by our dedicated and passionate team of volunteers who have been working tirelessly behind the scenes, to get ready to run trains again from Spring 2021.”

Philip Andrews, Chairman of the Bodmin & Wenford Railway Trust said:

“As a charitable Trust we’re committed to the preservation of our railway heritage for many years to come. Since the start of the covid-19 crisis we have been working closely with the other groups within the railway to make sure that our industrial and social history is protected and remains available to be shared and enjoyed by future generations. This award enables us to drive these objectives forward.”

Whilst the award helps to get the railway back on track, continued support is still required. Bodmin & Wenford will shortly be launching the next phase of their fundraising campaign for further vital restoration work required on locomotives and coaches over the coming months. Find out more about fundraising to date, and how you can support the railway here.

Alongside its museum-style open days at Bodmin General, taking place on selected dates between now and the end of the year, the railway will soon be publishing details of its Santa at the Station Christmas experience. Steve Ackland, Commercial Manager at Bodmin & Wenford Railway said: “For so many families a visit to the railway is an annual tradition, and whilst we aren’t able to offer our usual trip given the current restrictions, we’ve created a new, magical experience  – so Christmas isn’t cancelled! We’ve got a special arrangement with Santa, and regardless of the circumstances we’ll be able to share some of our unique brand of festive cheer.” To be the first to hear when tickets go on sale, sign up to our mailing list.

This vital funding is from the Culture Recovery Fund for Heritage and the Heritage Stimulus Fund – funded by Government and administered at arms length by Historic England and the National Lottery Heritage Fund. Both funds are part of the Government’s £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund which is designed to secure the future of Britain’s museums, galleries, theatres, independent cinemas, heritage sites and music venues with emergency grants and loans.

433 organisations will receive a share of £67 million from the Culture Recovery Fund for Heritage to help with costs for operating, reopening and recovery. This includes famous heritage sites across the country, from Wentworth Woodhouse in Yorkshire to Blackpool’s Winter Gardens, Blyth Tall Ship to the Severn Valley Railway, the International Bomber Command Centre in Lincolnshire to the Piecehall in Halifax. The funds will save sites that are a source of pride for communities across the country.

12 organisations, including English Heritage, Landmark Trust, Historic Royal Palaces and the Canal and River Trust, will receive £34 million from the Heritage Stimulus Fund to restart construction and maintenance on cherished heritage sites to preserve visitor attractions and protect livelihoods for some of the most vulnerable heritage specialists and contractors in the sector.

The Architectural Heritage Fund (AHF) has also been awarded a grant from the Culture Recovery Fund through Historic England. The AHF will use the funding to support charities and social enterprises occupying historic buildings to develop new business plans and strategies for organisations affected by the pandemic.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said:

“As a nation it is essential that we preserve our heritage and celebrate and learn from our past. This massive support package will protect our shared heritage for future generations, save jobs and help us prepare for a cultural bounce back post covid.”

Ros Kerslake, Chief Executive of the National Lottery Heritage Fund said:

“It is absolutely right that investing in heritage should be a priority during this crisis and this support by Government is crucial.  Heritage creates jobs and economic prosperity, is a major driver for tourism and makes our towns, cities, and rural areas better places to live.  All of this is so important for our wellbeing and will be particularly vital when we start to emerge from this incredibly difficult time.

“Our heritage is still facing a perilous future – we are not out of the woods yet.  But this hugely welcome funding from Government, and the money we continue to invest from the National Lottery, has undoubtedly stopped heritage and the organisations that care for it being permanently lost.”

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