A PROJECT aiming to unlock the secrets of Cranborne Chase and the Chalke Valley has received a funding boost of £1.6 million.

The Cranborne Chase Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) was awarded the money from the National Lottery Heritage Fund for the Cranborne Chase and Chalke Valley Landscape Partnership.

It will be used to bring the ancient landscape back to life.

Linda Nunn, the director of Cranborne Chase AONB, said: “It’s like dusting down an old book that you find in the attic and opening it to find a mass of truly wonderful stories that you can’t wait to share with everyone.

“It’s a special place that remains largely unknown and, as a result, has become undervalued.

“This project will reignite a love for the area and will foster a sense of pride for generations to come.”

The project aims to uncover the largest Neolithic monument in Britain, the Dorset Cursus, as well as restore and protect some internationally important habitats and historic sites.

The cursus once stretched for 10 km, but very little now remains above the ground. It dates from 3,300 BC.

Other beneficiaries of the scheme will be the Adonis blue butterfly, thousands of school children and some of the oldest walking routes in the country, organisers say.

The butterfly is frequently found in chalk downland.

More than 5,000 volunteer days are being planned.

Organisers say these events will give people the opportunity to get involved by recording bird and butterfly species.

Volunteers can also help out by digging dew ponds and more.

Roger Goulding, the scheme’s development officer, added: “More than 6,000 local people have already been involved in the creation of this project with more than 350 volunteer days donated.

“This project is for everyone.

“Whether you live in or around Cranborne Chase and the Chalke Valley, we welcome everyone who wants to join in and get involved.

“We can’t wait to get started.”

The projects include ‘nurturing nature’, a biodiversity programme which aims to improve habitat for species including Adonis blue butterflies, farmland birds and mammals, ‘crystal clear ebble’, which aims to protect, restore and improve 22km of the chalk river, and ‘wonderful woodlands’, which will train 90 people in woodland skills and crafts.

For more information on the scheme, or to get involved with volunteering, visit ccwwdaonb.org.uk