Woodlands, wetlands and tiny forests secure share of £40m government nature fund


Projects to restore woodlands and wetlands and plant a dozen “tiny forests” in urban areas are receiving a share of almost £40 million of Government funding.

The schemes are among 68 projects to secure money under the first round of the green recovery challenge fund to boost jobs in the environment sector and help nature as part of rebuilding from the pandemic.

Among the big winners are the Woodland Trust and National Trust, who are awarded more than £3.86 million to restore ancient woodlands and trees in 60 landscapes across England.

A partnership led by the Youth Hostel Association has secured more than £2.54 million for a project connecting young people from deprived areas with nature through virtual, field or class-based learning, day and residential trips, citizen science programmes, and volunteering in natural heritage sites.

The Centre for Sustainable Healthcare has been awarded £580,000 to improve access to green spaces at NHS sites and the Conservation Education and Research Trust will receive £249,000 to help plant tiny forests the size of tennis courts in 12 urban areas across England.

Other projects being supported include ones led by the RSPB restoring wetland at the Seasalter Levels, expanding a nursery for trees and wildflowers in the Lake District and helping curlews in the uplands.

And Plantlife schemes to create wildflower meadows across England and save juniper bushes on chalk downland in Wiltshire and Oxfordshire have received funding.

Some 21 projects are receiving larger grants of between £250,000 and £5 million and 47 schemes are awarded smaller grants of £50,000 – £250,000, the Environment Department (Defra) said.

The fund is being delivered by the National Lottery Heritage Fund in partnership with government agencies Natural England and the Environment Agency.

A second round with a further £40 million funding, which was announced as part of the Prime Minister’s 10 point green plan to drive a green industrial revolution and help the economy recover, will open in the spring.

Environment Minister Rebecca Pow said: “These projects will drive forward work across England to restore and transform our landscapes, boost nature and create green jobs, and will be a vital part of helping us to build back greener from coronavirus.”

Woodland Trust chief executive Dr Darren Moorcroft said it was a great stimulus package for the environment and the economy.

He added: “Ancient trees and woods are the Westminster Abbeys of our terrestrial habitats and are culturally resonant landmarks – restoring them will be a cornerstone in wider landscape renewal and nature recovery.

“We and our friends at the National Trust will deliver and demonstrate renewal on our own land and support it beyond those boundaries, restoring damaged woods and conserving our neglected ancient trees.”

The organisations would also train staff and volunteers and work with contractors, land managers and students, to increase skills and capacity within the wider forestry and conservation sectors, he added