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Save Jane Eyre's Ferndean Manor and the Brontë Way heritage.
'Ferndean Manor', home of Mr. Rochester in Charlotte Brontë's 'Jane Eyre' is under dire threat - as is the picturesque and inspirational Brontë Way, which starts at Ferndean Manor and leads to Brontë Parsonage Museum, Haworth. Called Wycoller Hall in real life, Ferndean Manor is the centrepiece of the gorgeously romantic Wycoller hamlet clustered around a stream at the heart of Wycoller Country Park. Its moody scenery and residents inspired the Brontë sisters.
Lancashire County Council, which cares for the ruined Hall, the Brontë trail and the surrounding countryside is planning to completely close down the management, maintenance and ranger service. Visitors will no longer be able to see the great aisled barn or use the countryside activity centre. The visitor toilets will close and the privately run cafe and shop are unlikely to survive. Wycoller hamlet is Lancashire's prettiest visitor destination with thousands of visitors served by dozens of volunteers - who want to do more to promote the place. It is managed by countryside ranger with a modest budget. Any cost savings from closing it down will be negligible and the volunteers scattered. A key part of the Brontë sisters' heritage will be lost forever.
Laura Darcy, who lives in Hapton, said: “There are so few places left like Wycoller and considering most of the upkeep is done by volunteers it baffles me to think that the council see Wycoller as somewhere we can just forget about.
“It’s a beautiful place which attracts visitors throughout the year.”
School teacher Karen Entwistle, from Simonstone, added: “I have visited Wycoller three times a year for the last five years with my classes from Whitefield Infant School in Nelson.
“The learning opportunities and experiences the ruins, aisled barn and ranger service offers our children is irreplaceable.”
County councillor Marcus Johnstone, Lancashire County Council’s cabinet member for environment, planning and cultural services, said: “The county council faces an unprecedented financial challenge caused by relentless central government cuts and rising demand for our services.
“We are being forced to bring in a raft of measures to tackle a funding gap of £262 million which we need to save by 2020.
“Our priority has to be protecting the most vulnerable people through services such as adult social care.
“We want people to continue to enjoy our country parks, picnic sites and woodlands but we won’t have the resources to maintain them in the future.
“Over the next 12 months, we will explore a range of options for the sites and securing public access for the future will be key to any proposal.
“Some of these options might involve passing the sites to trusts or charities and we are open to suggestions from interested parties. (Pete Magill)