21 Jun 2023

We’ve received a £318,323 National Lottery Heritage Fund grant to accelerate nature recovery and ensure a brighter future for wildlife in Cheshire!

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This important funding will enable us to develop detailed plans to create and restore vital habitats for wildlife and empower local communities to connect with the conservation of severely declining UK species, through an exciting new collaborative project named Networks for Nature.The Networks for Nature initiative will also provide comprehensive conservation skills training, establish a wellbeing and accessibility programme, engage young people and create volunteering opportunities, all designed to help ensure wildlife can thrive alongside people across the region.

The project is being led by the zoo, in partnership with a host of other organisations, including Cheshire West and Chester Local Authority, Cheshire Wildlife Trust, the Canal and River Trust, Sustrans, the Land Trust, and Cheshire West Communities Together. Each of the organisations has committed to improving their own land holdings in the area to contribute to the enhancement of Cheshire’s natural landscape.

Hannah Brooks, Community Engagement Manager at Chester Zoo, said:

“We’re in midst of a global biodiversity crisis. The UN estimates that one million species are at risk of extinction, including many here in the UK, meaning there’s never been a more pressing time to stand together for nature.”

“Maintained through a strong partnership of local organisations, our new Networks for Nature project will create a thriving, better connected, wildlife-rich landscape across northwest Cheshire, benefitting both nature and the surrounding communities. By coming together, we can make a significant difference to improving nature in Cheshire, and contribute to the global effort to protect and restore biodiversity.”

Much of Britain’s wildlife is disappearing, with 50% of UK species reported to be in decline.

Water vole

The UK’s most rapidly declining mammal, which has been lost from 94% of places where they were once prevalent since the 1960s. The species has declined by 30% in the UK since 2006 due to habitat destruction and water pollution

Great crested newts

Their numbers have dramatically declined over the last 50 years, having lost essential breeding ponds sites to pollution, development and farmland.

Black poplar

Thought to be Britain’s most endangered native timber tree, this species has been in decline for the past 200 years.

Helen Featherstone, Director, England, North at The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said:

“Thanks to National Lottery players, we’re delighted to support the first-round development phase of this project that will enable Chester Zoo and its community partners to work towards creating a thriving, wildlife-rich landscape that will not only benefit nature but also local people across Cheshire. It is vital that we value, rebuild and protect our natural heritage so it is sustained for the future, and this project has that at its core.”

We’ll now work closely with local communities and partners over the next 14 months to ensure a robust second-round application can be submitted to The National Lottery Heritage Fund in 2025.

Already this project has led to the creation of four new jobs in the area, while the team heading up the project is now looking for local landowners to join the movement to transform natural landscapes across Cheshire.

To get involved or find out more, contact wildlifeconnections@chesterzoo.org