An illustration of trees and a pond in front of the Museum building

The new sustainable garden will inform visitors of why urban nature is important and how people can support it

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Urban Nature Project receives £3.2 million from the National Lottery Heritage Fund

The National Lottery Heritage Fund has awarded £3.2 million to the Museum. The grant will go towards the Urban Nature Project (UNP).

The UNP will support wildlife in cities across the country by developing new monitoring techniques and a school's programme, as well as creating a welcoming and stimulating green space that is easily accessible for all visitors.

More than 80% of the British population live in urban areas. It is predicted that this will increase to over 90% by 2030. This means the only access to nature most people will have will be within cities and towns. However, urban wildlife is dwindling, and we need to act now to prevent a desolate future.

Sir David Attenborough said in 2020, 'The natural world is under threat as never before. Species that were a common sight in gardens across the country when I was young, such as hedgehogs, are rarely seen by children today.

'These declines have devastating consequences for wildlife. Unless children have access to nature to experience, understand and nurture wildlife, we know they might never feel connected to nature and could grow up with no interest in protecting the natural world around them.'

An illustration of a pathway with people doing various activities

The new design will have universal step-free access throughout the space

What is the Urban Nature Project?

The UNP is a plan to transform the green space around the Museum and turn it into a haven for urban wildlife, including cheerful Greyface Dartmoor sheep when they come to graze in autumn.

Over 3,300 species have been found in the Museum's garden since it opened 25 years ago, many of which have contributed to scientific studies such as the discovery of new species. The figure is expected to double when the renovation is completed in 2023.

The garden will also be used for National Monitoring Programmes to record changes in Britain's urban wildlife, some of which will involve piloting new technology such as acoustic monitoring.

The UNP will see the development of new techniques and technologies to aid in the monitoring of biodiversity in our cities and towns. These innovations will be shared with partners around the country to build up a bigger picture of how wildlife is changing over time.

In addition, the UNP will create a rich and diverse learning area for the thousands of visitors that walk through the Museum gates each year. It will feature many curious trails throughout the garden, a live laboratory hosting some of the Museum's scientific work, an outdoor learning centre with fun, educational activities planned and much more.

A new, weatherproof cast of Dippy the Dinosaur will stand centre stage in the Jurassic garden for all to admire, come rain or shine. With select plants and fossils scattered around, the garden will take visitors through Earth's fascinating history, including the impact humans have had in recent times.

The new, sustainable design will extend the existing habitats while updating the walkways, including step-free access and new seating areas.

An illustration of a pond with people observing it

A sunken walkway will allow visitors to appreciate the ponds more

A national programme

The UNP is a vital step forward in researching changes in urban wildlife, improving conservation work to prevent and ultimately reverse biodiversity decline, and raising awareness to the public.

It is a collaboration between several partners across the UK, including National Museums Wales, National Museums Northern Ireland, the Great North Museum: Hancock, Glasgow Museums and RSPB Glasgow.

The UNP will also oversee the development of a new national learning programme to help get children more engaged with the nature that surrounds them.

The Museum will be supporting teachers, developing curriculum-linked schools programmes, creating a nationwide schools challenge, providing new training opportunities for young people and developing a brand-new citizen science project informed by young people.

There will also be dozens of voluntary positions available for young people to participate in, as well as one new traineeship and two new apprenticeships at GCSE level.

Dr Doug Gurr, Director of the Natural History Museum says, 'We are delighted that the National Heritage Lottery Fund has given us this tremendous opportunity to support and protect urban nature and reengage people with the incredible biodiversity on their doorsteps.

'Now more than ever, we need to work together to address the critical threats facing our planet. Nature is in free fall - species are being wiped out at increasing speeds and children are spending less time in the natural world.

'The grant allows us to address these urgent concerns and, working with an incredible host of partners, deliver cutting edge science, learning, volunteer and apprenticeship programmes across the UK. This committed and ambitious approach will have a genuine and lasting impact in helping to protect our urban spaces for generations to come.'

Sir David has said about the project, 'The Urban Nature Project opens the door for young people to fall in love with the nature on their doorsteps and develop a lifelong concern for the world’s wild places. Nature isn't just nice to have, it's the linchpin of our very existence and ventures like the Urban Nature Project help the next generation develop the strong connection with nature that is needed to protect it.'