A Woodland Trust Wood
Head of grants & trusts
The National Lottery celebrated its 25th birthday this week. Its multi-million pound jackpots change lives. But did you know the National Lottery invests in life-changing projects around the UK too?
The Woodland Trust is one of many organisations to win the lottery, with over £33 million in funding helping us with more than 120 projects since 1994. We take a look at what one of our biggest grants – from the Heritage Fund – has meant for our largest site in England: Smithills Estate near Bolton.
Steeped in history and shadowed by the famous Winter Hill TV mast, Smithills is an important and fascinating site. We bought two-thirds of this special place in 2015 before receiving one of our biggest Heritage Fund grants yet – a whopping £1.9m in 2017. Combined with generous public donations and other funding, much of this grant was put towards buying the final third of the site. This brought all 1,700 acres of woodland and open countryside into our care.
The rest of the grant was earmarked for Smithills’ restoration and activities to engage people with its heritage. We’ve been restoring and revitalising the site ever since.
Credit: Heather Beckett / WTML
Lottery funding is helping to restore a mosaic of special wildlife habitats at Smithills. Woodland, heathland, grassland and moorland provide homes for over 1,000 species, including palmate newt, green hairstreak butterfly and the rare short-eared owl.
The funding also provides training for our team of dedicated wildlife monitoring volunteers. They identify and record the plants and animals they find – an important task which helps to inform our conservation plans.
Devastating wildfires ravaged a third of the land in 2018, making our work at Smithills even more challenging. But wildlife is returning. As more trees go in the ground this winter and restoration of the moor continues, Smithills’ nature will thrive again.
Credit: John Bridges
Following the fires during last year’s heatwave, autumn 2019 brought a different climate challenge. Heavy rain overwhelmed some parts of the UK. At Smithills, Lottery funding has helped us to build wooden leaky dams on the estate. The dams will reduce flooding by slowing the run-off of water from the moorland to the lower areas of the site. They’ll also help to retain water on the moorland. This will allow us to introduce more species of sphagnum moss to boost the recovery of this precious habitat.
Credit: Russell Hedley / WTML
Through Heritage Fund support and with help from our partners, we’ve been able to offer lots of free events. Thousands of people have enjoyed the site over the last few years by joining us at:
We’ve plenty more exciting events and activities in the pipeline – keep checking our events page.
The Woodland Trust and Heritage Fund are committed to looking after unique places like Smithills. Since the lottery began in 1994, its funding has helped us achieve so much, including:
A Woodland Trust Wood
Ancient trees need special care and protection. There are thousands of ancient trees in the UK and we need your help to tell us where they are with the Ancient Tree Inventory.
Search thousands of woods across the UK and gather information on the local facilities, features, wildlife and history in the area.
Smithills may take 10-15 years to fully recover from the fires, but the future is looking bright. Our plans to revitalise the landscape include:
You can help people and wildlife to enjoy this special site by supporting our vital work. Donate now to make a difference to the future of this northern gem.
We’re so grateful for everything we’ve received from the Heritage Fund and players of the National Lottery. We look forward to another 25 years of working together to plant, protect and care for woods and trees across the UK.
We plant woods and trees to combat climate change, build a greener future for the UK and create havens for wildlife.
We save woods and trees from decimation. We stand against needless destruction and lead the fight against tree pests and diseases.
We bring damaged ancient woods back to life. We restore these irreplaceable ecosystems before they are lost forever.
We care for over 1,000 woods, keeping them open for you to explore and enjoy. We want to inspire a love for woods and trees for generations to come.