A special guest post from Kim Gutteridge explains why National Lottery players can get a free hot drink on selected RSPB reserves:

As a big thank you to National Lottery players we’re saying #ThanksToYou for your funding support by offering a free cuppa at 15 of our RSPB nature reserves from Monday 11 to Friday 15 December 2017.

Many of these sites have benefited from the Heritage Lottery Fund, but we’ve included a couple of extras because of their great cafes. Find out more about claiming your free cuppa by visiting our web page.

Did you know that you and millions of others are helping to save nature?

Since March 2017, National Lottery players have helped to raise over £37 billion for Good Causes, with more than 525,000 individual awards made across the UK – the equivalent of around 185 lottery grants in every community.

Nature benefits from the 20% of funding for good causes that goes towards our heritage. You might wonder what heritage has got to do with nature.

The UK is stuffed full of natural heritage (wildlife and great places) that also has many cultural and historic links, all of which the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) can support. It isn’t possible to describe the massive impact that all HLF funding has had for the RSPB but here are a few of the magic places that you have helped give nature a home in.

Where is it helping?

In the South West the HLF funded our Natural Connections Project which explored the cultural, natural and historical heritage at RSPB Radipole Lake nature reserve, including Roman history, reedbed, swans, thatching and the sea and harbour.

Practical activities were run to give people first-hand experience of how thatchers have managed reedbeds, living history experiences through oral history recordings, and volunteer interpreters on hand to provide opportunities for people to be up close and personal with the site’s amazing wildlife.

At Rainham Marshes, the HLF funded the construction of the Purfleet Environment and Education Centre, the site’s main building. This site is one of very few ancient landscapes remaining in London. With HLF funding these historic medieval marshes, right next to the River Thames, were opened to the public for the first time after being closed for a century, as they were used as a military firing range.

RSPB Rainham Marshes. Photo by Sara Humphrey.

In Suffolk thousands more visitors have been able to enjoy RSPB Minsmere nature reserve as a result of funding. There are upgraded facilities, including a revamped visitor centre and learning area for families and school groups.

These improvements mean that more people can now enjoy Minsmere - which is home to rare birds, historical woodlands and stunning coastal scenery with links to World War II.

 Bittern wading in reedbed. Photo by Ben Andrew (rspb-images.com)

At Sandwell Valley in the Midlands, HLF funding has also reinvigorated the site with a redesigned centre about which the local residents said “They’ve got this place right, it’s a beautiful place for residents to enjoy.” Volunteers at the reserve have noticed wide ranging benefits, not only for nature but for people too, as a direct result of these improvements which include better health, sharing and increasing knowledge, gaining confidence and new skills, making new and lasting friendships.

Events with a local youth club have taken place and given young people a sense that this reserve is for them, not ‘for other people’. Police feedback has shown that this project has also had an impact on antisocial behaviour which previously had been a problem on the reserve.

The Seabird Centre at Bempton Cliffs offers some of the most stunning coastal views anywhere. Since opening the enhanced visitor centre in April 2015, we have had a phenomenal response from visitors – with positive reviews making us one of the Top Ten visitor rated natural outdoor attractions in the UK. The additional indoor space means we can tell the rich cultural stories associated with this stretch of Yorkshire’s Heritage Coast, including it being the birthplace of seabird protection.

 Bempton Cliffs visitor centre, funded by HLF.

Further north at Saltholme on Teesside, the HLF funded ‘A Date with Seals’ project. Here 32 volunteers worked on this project over three summers so that 10,828 people could connect to nature by coming to see the seals. Our monitoring highlighted that most of the visitors would not have normally travelled to a nature reserve.

In Scotland, the Loch Leven Heritage landscape partnership project led by The Rural Access Committee of Kinross-shire (TRACKS) created a heritage trail around the loch which has brought communities together and is helping promote a healthier lifestyle. The final section of the completed trail, runs for 6.5km from Kinross Mill to the RSPB Loch Leven nature reserve on the south side of Loch Leven. 

Belfast’s Window on Wildlife (WOW) is an oasis of calm in the heart of Belfast’s industry. Thanks to significant HLF funding the refurbished visitor centre at WOW welcomes school groups and has a dedicated space to host a variety of events throughout the year. With over 50 visitor engagement volunteers there are always friendly faces throughout the week to happily answer questions and assist with bird identification.

Our visitors can use scopes and binoculars to view wading birds and ducks in the autumn and winter and breeding terns in the summer. Outside on the reserve there is a sand martin bank, a swift tower and two hides made out of shipping containers in-keeping with the hustle and bustle of the surrounding Belfast Harbour.

Due to HLF’s support to get this site off the ground, Newport Wetlands is now a thriving visitor centre with over 100,000 visitors a year. It’s a natural relaxation area close to the urban hub of Newport City.

Newport is also a key destination within the Living Levels Landscape Partnership – which, if successful with HLF funding, next year will start to connect the people of the Gwent Levels to their natural heritage. If you are in North Wales, why not pop along to South Stack instead. Although not a recipient of HLF funding itself, it’s a thrilling seabird reserve in North Holyhead. The recent creation of a nature playground has been of great benefit to the local community, who tend to visit after school when the crowds die down.

We hope to see you all in the run up to Christmas and as Ros Kerslake, Chief Executive of the Heritage Lottery Fund, said: “December is a wonderful time to experience the UK’s rich, diverse and exciting heritage, which has been transformed by more than £7bn National Lottery funding since 1994. This is a small gesture of thanks and a way of giving something back to the people who buy tickets.”

Kim Gutteridge
Head of Grants, High Value Fundraising – Planning and Development

Participating free cuppa sites:
Bempton Cliffs
Dearne Valley - Old Moor
Leighton Moss and Morecambe Bay
Loch Leven
Newport Wetlands
Pulborough Brooks
Radipole Lake
Rainham Marshes
Sandwell Valley (Wednesday 13 December-Friday 15 December only)
South Stack Cliffs
Titchwell Marsh