Skip Navigation

Will natural heritage get the winning ticket?

The way we have worked and used woods and trees throughout our history has shaped both our industry and our homes. Trees and woods are a vital part of our natural heritage. They’re weaved into our psyche as landmarks, stories and legends, and have inspired beloved characters as diverse as Little Red Riding Hood and Winnie the Pooh. But a new review of National Lottery priorities could lead to reduced funding, unless we can show the public cares.

Players of the National Lottery have been supporting us since 1994, to the tune of an incredible £30 million in grant funding over the years. We’re so grateful for this money, which has been invaluable in helping us to protect, restore and plant woods and trees across the UK, but the benefits to our natural heritage have been so much wider.

HLF funding has helped more people engage with natural heritage  (Photo: WTML)
HLF funding has helped more people engage with natural heritage (Photo: WTML)

Our Lottery funded projects

As a grants officer fundraising on behalf of the Woodland Trust, I have been privileged to be able to see first-hand the positive impact funding like this has had on natural heritage - for trees and woods but also for wildlife and people.

The Lottery funded projects that I have been involved with over the years have made such a fantastic and lasting difference. Funding has enabled us to work alongside many different partners and community groups, gear up volunteers and give other funders confidence to invest in what we do. Some of my favourite projects include:

  • Credenhill Park Wood in Herefordshire, where we restored damaged ancient woodland around an ancient Iron Age hillfort and Channel 4’s Time Team came along to do archaeological digging with help from the local community
  • The Ancient Tree Hunt which involved thousands of volunteers in finding and mapping the fat, old trees across the UK to produce a comprehensive database which has hugely influenced our ongoing citizen science work
  • Smithillls Estate near Bolton, where a massive £1.9m of Lottery funding has helped us buy this 690ha (1700 acre) landscape that had been sadly neglected. This will now support our ambitious plans to transform it into a wildlife haven and recreational resource for local people and visitors.
Amazing landscapes like Smithills Estate, Bolton have received HLF funding  (Photo: WTML)
Amazing landscapes like Smithills Estate, Bolton have received HLF funding (Photo: WTML)

Future funding

It’s widely accepted that caring for our natural environment helps wildlife thrive and our landscapes to cope with threats such as climate change. It also improves the places we live and spend time in, making our everyday lives better as a result. Yet evidence of philanthropic giving in the UK shows that only around 4% goes towards environmental causes. This incredibly low level has long been the case, and shows no sign of improvement despite the increasingly understood benefits of trees and woodland to our health, wealth and economy, and the huge climate challenges that we are facing, including flooding and tree disease. So it’s crucial for organisations like ours to access funding in order to continue to protect and enhance the natural world.

The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) is one of few funders in the UK dedicated to preserving all types of heritage at a national scale. It is currently undertaking a strategic review of its priorities and is consulting with organisations and the public to determine what these should be. With ever increasing pressure on its income, funding for natural heritage – our trees and woods, landscapes and wildlife– could potentially decrease as a result.

You can help

We know people love their natural heritage. The consultation is the best way we can all make it clear how important it is, not just for trees and woods, but for all natural heritage.

Trees and woods are an essential part of the natural heritage at the heart of all our lives. We want to make sure that it’s also placed at the heart of HLF’s priorities and reflected in the amount of funding awarded through its grant giving programmes. 

It’s up to us to demonstrate to funders how much our natural heritage means to us all. Together, we can ensure that it’s protected and supported for future generations to enjoy. Please use our simple form to add your views straight into the HLF consultation before it closes on 22 March.

Together we can make a difference

Add your voice to the cause