It was great to read the news yesterday that 68 projects across England had received £40 million from the new Green Recovery Challenge Fund, which has been established to as a key part of the Prime Minister’s 10 Point Plan to kick-start nature recovery, create green jobs and tackle climate change while helping the country build back better and greener from the pandemic.

The list of projects is wonderfully varied. Youth Hostel Association (YHA) in England and Wales receive £2,543,600 to connect young people to nature and build a new workforce for the green recovery, the Woodland Trust has been awarded £3,860,200 to restore ancient woodlands and trees in 63 landscapes across England and Plantlife are to receive £922,700 to both create wildflower meadows on a large-scale and to save juniper, the rare and threatened species heading towards extinction in the south of England.

And, of course, a number of projects with which the RSPB is closely involved, have also been given a boost by this fund:

 In the north of England, £221,000 has been awarded to a project halt the decline of curlew in two priority landscapes, Geltsdale and Hadrian’s Wall Corridor and the Forest of Bowland. This project will help 70 farms to restore 1050 hectares of land and improve the habitat condition for 310 breeding curlew pairs, build resilience to cope with economic uncertainty and climate change impacts, support 50 volunteers to monitor curlews, and enable community involvement from local villages.

At the other end of the country, in Purbeck, £549,900 has been given to a consortium led by Dorset AONB, including RSPB and the National Trust, to build on the work of an existing project to create a single site of 1,370 ha of lowland heathland at the heart of the recently declared Purbeck Heaths National Nature Reserve (NNR) for grazing by cattle, ponies, and pigs. This will create a more dynamic, complex, and better-connected complex of habitats; thereby helping wildlife and building resilience for some of Britain’s most threatened species.

To the east, in Kent, the RSPB along with Canterbury City Council and Kent Wildlife Trust, £1,884,900 has been awarded to a landscape-scale project that will see the restoration of the Seasalter Levels, enhancement work at Wraik Hill Local Nature Reserve, and new works to make Blean Woods more resilient to the effects of climate change through better management of water on site.

And in Greater Manchester, the RSPB is involved in a project that has received £1,799,108 to deliver 537ha of habitat restoration that will benefit 2,758ha of connected landscapes – another landscape-scale scheme that is the epitome of the mantra ‘bigger, better, more joined-up’. This same scheme will also connect more people to nature, and both protect and create new jobs.

In the round, this £40million boost for nature in England is warmly welcomed, the diversity of projects is hugely exciting, and will make a real difference. And it is sweetened by the announcement of a further £40million to be available in the new year.

Let’s hope this isn’t the end of the funding though. We know that the original £40million was oversubscribed seven times, and many vital projects will still need support. But we also know that restoring nature is a good investment, not only does it help mitigate the worst excesses of the ecological emergency, many of these projects also provide solutions for the pressures of climate change and give people much needed green space, as well as creating jobs. We know this is what the public wants. And we know this is the Governments ambition. Let’s get on with it, and get it done.

The RSPB thanks Defra and The National Lottery Heritage Fund for making these funds available and administering this scheme, and all our partners who we have working with to put bids together.

Anonymous