The historic Bennerley Viaduct has been given an honour that allows it to be mentioned in the same breath as some of the most iconic monuments in the world, such as the Notre Dame in Paris.
The disused railway viaduct, which spans the Erewash Valley, from Awsworth to Ilkeston, is one of just 25 landmarks, globally, to be selected for the 2020 World Monuments Watch List.
The other sites include not only the Notre Dame but also the Sacred Valley of the Incas in Peru, the Bears Ears national monument in the USA and the historic water systems of the Deccan Plateau in India.
The list is run by the New York-based World Monuments Fund, which sponsors an ongoing programme for the conservation of cultural heritage worldwide.
It identifies endangered sites and works with local communities to protect their heritage and explore ways of ensuring they can be preserved long term.
Bennerley Viaduct remains on Historic England’s at-risk register, so to be selected by the World Monuments Fund is a huge boost for a project to reopen it as a walking and cycling route.
Kieran Lee, of the Friends of Bennerley Viaduct group, said: “This is recognition of the cultural significance of the viaduct and of its potential to improve people’s lives.
“Over the next two years, we will benefit from the support and advice of heritage experts and increase our chances of gaining further funding for our project to repair and restore the viaduct.”
John Darlington, executive director of the World Monument Fund, said: “Bennerley is an extraordinary monument.
“It is special because of its historical importance as the longest wrought-iron vidauct in Britain, but also because of what it means to the local community.
“We are so pleased it has made it on to the 2020 Watch, and we look forward to a catalytic partnership.”
The viaduct, which is owned by the Birmingham-based charity, Railway Paths, is a Grade II listed Victorian wrought-iron structure that straddles the Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire border.
Plans to renovate it and create access to a new deck were approved during the summer, and enough funds have been raised for the project to start.
In recent weeks, volunteers have relocated great-crested newts so that repair work on the brick piers can begin, and they have also cleared vegetation to create access for contractors.
The project has gathered such momentum that the number of volunteers and members of the Friends group has risen dramatically, while guided walks and illustrated walks have been oversubscribed.