A crowd of people are stood looking down into a large pond, in which three people wearing waders are bending over to pull up water lily plants.

Work has begun on the redevelopment of the Museum's five-acre site, which will eventually include a bigger wildlife garden, walk through time, activity centre and cafe. 

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Work begins on the Museum's landmark garden redevelopment

Groundbreaking has started in the Museum's gardens, which are being redeveloped into an urban oasis. 

The works are part of the wider Urban Nature Project, which is working across the UK to develop new techniques and technologies to help us better understand urban nature, creating a new national learning programme to encourage children to get engaged with nature, and support our urban wildlife.  

The works have begun on the transformation of the Museum's gardens in central London. 

Ove the next few weeks work will start in earnest on the five-acres of grounds that surround the Museum. It will be turned into a welcoming, accessible and biologically diverse green space in the heart of London, including the newly improved wildlife garden acting as a living research laboratory, an immersive journey through the evolution of life on Earth and a learning and activity centre. 

In order to protect and preserve the well-established wildlife garden, the team have been working closely with scientists and gardeners to help maintain and eventually boost the urban biodiversity already present on site. 

This involves a design that is both sustainable and works with the existing landscape. The team will be translocating the pond, involving moving the plants and other wildlife that live there, into holding tanks for the duration of the works. They will then be moved into the new pond once it is complete, helping to rapidly recreate a thriving urban wetland. 

Tom McCarter is wearing green waders and a grey t-shirt whilst holding a tray fully of lily roots, stood next to Doug Gurr  who is also in waders and a shirt. The are both standing in a pond, with Doug smiling at the camera whilst holding up a ball of lily roots in one of this hands.

The Museum's Director, Doug Gurr, helped Tom McCarter start work on transforming the gardens by translocating the pond plants. 

Tom McCarter, the head of the Museum gardens, leads the team that has been working to help ensure that wildlife continues to thrive in this valuable green space. 'The Urban Nature Project will allow visitors to explore the Museum in a new way, reconnecting them with the outdoors and giving them the tools to safeguard nature in towns and cities, so that people and planet can thrive. 

'This week marks an exciting new chapter for our gardens, redeveloping an outdoor space that has been in South Kensington for more than 130 years.'

A walk through time

In addition to the wildlife garden in the western side of the grounds, the project will also be turning the eastern area into an immersive living journey through deep time.  

Starting as visitors enter the grounds from Exhibition Road, they will walk along a geological timeline, tracing the development of planet Earth recorded in its rocks. 

An artists impression of what the gardens will look like when finished, with large cycads towering over ferns and mosses, and a diplodocus skeleton emerging from the vegetation.

The newly developed gardens will include a walk through deep time, where visitors will eventually come face-to-face with a Diplodocus.  

As the visitors move further through the gardens, the plants that surround them will represent key moments over the 540 million years of evolution of life. Starting with mosses and liverworts, the planting will then transition into ferns, cycads, conifers and horsetails, eventually ending with the evolution of flowering plants and grasses. 

Amongst the plants will be a snapshot of some of the life that lived during those periods, including a weather-proof Hypsilophodon and a towering Diplodocus

Championing urban wildlife

The newly developed grounds will also feature a new, sustainably built café, and a learning and activity centre. This centre will provide a hub to showcase the diversity of life that call towns and cities home, as well as provide the space to continue monitoring the garden's biodiversity to provide valuable data in our efforts to help preserve and protect it.  

With some 80% of people in the UK living in urban areas, a new national learning programme is also encouraging children to get outside and engage with the nature on their doorstep. 

A woman wearing a yellow jacket over a red and white stripey top and another woman wearing a high-vis jacket are leaning over two trays containing lily root.

The first stage in the works is to translocate the pond, including much of the plants and wildlife it contains.   

Drew Bennellick, Head of Land & Nature Policy at The National Lottery Heritage Fund, says, 'People are now less connected to nature than at any time in our human existence. Creating places in the midst of our cities where people can see, understand and enjoy nature are critical to helping nature’s recovery.'

'The Urban Nature Project is an exciting and innovative way to inspire and reconnect visitors to nature through accessing wildlife on the doorstep of the Natural History Museum.'

A wide variety of trusts, foundations, companies and individuals are supporting the Urban Nature Project including the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the Evolution Education Trust, the Cadogan Charity, the Garfield Weston Foundation, the Kusuma Trust, the Wolfson Foundation, Charles Wilson and Rowena Olegario, Huo Family Foundation (UK), Johnson Matthey, Workman and the Trustees and Executive Board of the Museum.

Support the project

This momentous project will not be possible without your help.

Right now, you have the opportunity to make your mark in the Museum gardens like never before. From sponsoring a square metre of garden to dedicating a bench to a loved one, a donation to the Urban Nature Project is the perfect way to show your love for urban wildlife. 

Your donation could help us to transform our biologically diverse gardens, inspire the next generation to love and care for urban wildlife or support our scientists in their fight to halt biodiversity decline.

Whatever your contribution, join the urban nature movement today and help protect the wildlife we share our cities with.