The Natural History Museum Gardens will transform into the country’s urban nature epicentre © Feilden Fowles and J & L Gibbons

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Natural History Museum’s Urban Nature Project receives a £3,231,900 grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund

The Natural History Museum has today announced it has secured a National Lottery Heritage Fund grant of £3,231,900 for its Urban Nature Project (UNP). The project will reach over 1.5m people via the creation of a collaborative, nationwide biodiversity movement with partners across the UK to urgently address, better understand and ultimately reverse the rapid decline of urban biodiversity and habitat loss we are witnessing today. The project will also transform the Museum’s five-acre gardens into a globally relevant urban nature ‘epicentre’, helping to safeguard nature’s future.

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

He continued, "Now more than ever, we need to work together to address the critical threats facing our planet, stop the free fall in species diversity and get children re-engaged with the natural world. This grant will allow us to address these urgent concerns and, working with a fantastic host of partners to deliver cutting edge science, learning, volunteer and apprenticeship programmes across the UK, launch a movement to revitalise and protect our natural urban spaces for generations to come”. 

The Urban Nature Project was designed as a response to the urgent need to both monitor and record changes to the UK's urban nature and fill the skills gap required to do so. Working with a coalition of museums and wildlife organisations across the UK, the Natural History Museum will lead a learning programme for young people, families and schools. This will include an onsite education centre and curriculum-linked programmes reaching over 900,000 people across the country over the next three years. The project will develop online, onsite and national monitoring and citizen science programmes.  A ‘living lab’ will be created to conduct scientific research which can be shared both with UK partners and to global audiences.

With confirmation of the lottery grant, partner sites including the National Museums of Cardiff and Northern Ireland, the Great North Museum: Hancock, the Glasgow Museums and RSPB Glasgow, have the green light to develop onsite learning and science programmes. 

Kate Holden, the Learning Officer from the Great North Museum: Hancock in Newcastle said, “It really is exciting to be part of a national programme, with national profile, addressing some of the key issues of our time. This project has a huge amount of expertise behind it and has been developed with care, ambition and a clear vision.

“Working with a brilliant network of national partners, scientists and schools in such a collaborative way enhances our work and allows us to have huge impact with our own audiences.”

Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, the Museum will be able to continue its work engaging audiences with a low connection to nature. The UNP aims to help people from across the UK form a lifelong connection with the natural world and empower them to understand and protect it. This is especially true for younger audiences. The project has developed several youth engagement programmes including a summer volunteer scheme for young people to explore the potential for a career in science and nature. A Youth Advisory Panel has also been created which has spent the last six months working with the Museum to highlight the challenges young, diverse audiences face accessing the natural world. A further two youth panels will run over the next two years, designed to address a range of challenges young people face when engaging with nature.

Discussing the project’s impact on young people, Sir David Attenborough said in October last year, “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 and 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.

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.”

A wide variety of trusts, foundations, companies and individuals are also supporting the project including the Evolution Education Trust, the Cadogan Charity, Garfield Weston Foundation, the Wolfson Foundation, Huo Family Foundation, Johnson Matthey and Workman.

Stuart McLeod, Director England - London & South at The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said, “We are delighted to support The Natural History Museum’s Urban Nature Project and help it to achieve the co-shared ambition to better understand and ultimately reverse the rapid decline of habitat loss witnessed in our cities.

“While we face unprecedented challenges brought by the pandemic, investing in nature-themed heritage projects remains a top priority for us as it improves people’s lives and makes communities better places to live.

“We ask the projects we fund to do their upmost to think sustainably, support nature’s recovery and consider the future of our cultural and natural heritage.

“Thanks to National Lottery players, this iconic London institution will do exactly that while engaging a wider range of people with the incredible biodiversity on their doorsteps.”

Key features of the UNP 

Learning and volunteer programmes will:  

  • Tackle the UK skills shortage in understanding and identifying UK wildlife  
  • In partnership with The Prince’s Trust, create training for youth workers and programmes for young people UK wide 
  • Deliver national learning programmes and mass Citizen Science on environmental change and urban habitats ​
  • Expand the Museum’s outdoor, onsite learning programmes by 66%, reaching 6,000 students and 20,000 families a year 
  • Create digital programmes to inspire and connect diverse audiences to urban nature
  • Develop a new summer volunteer programme which will give young people the chance to explore a career in science and nature
  • Expand the existing Museum volunteer programme from 30 to 100 volunteers, aimed at people from neighboring London boroughs
  • Deliver 1 new traineeship and 2 new apprenticeships as GCSE level (level 2)

Scientific development and environmental monitoring will

  • Develop the scientific tools to monitor and protect urban nature
  • Address the urgent need to record changes to the UK's urban biodiversity to understand and mitigate climate change and biodiversity loss 
  • Work with partners to drive forward evidence-based nature conservation within the UK, delivering a nationwide urban biodiversity programme 
  • Pilot a range of innovative, cost-effective technologies in order to revolutionise understanding of biodiversity in urban areas including DNA, e-DNA and acoustic monitoring and share these with the wider sector 
  • Research and tackle some of the key challenges, identifying the top species to monitor in UK urban habitats 

Approved Plans for the Museum’s South Kensington Gardens  

The new gardens will transform the visitor experience for the millions that come through the Museum doors each year, offering  a fully accessible green space and biodiversity hub in the heart of the capital. Museum scientists and external experts are working together to sensitively develop a net zero carbon project that will both protect and increase the biodiversity currently established. When complete, the Museum gardens will take people on a journey through a changing world. They will provide a fully accessible opportunity for visitors to connect with nature and explore the incredible diversity of life on Earth.  A brand-new weatherproof cast of the Natural History Museum’s iconic 105ft diplodocus will have pride of place. This replica of the Museum’s much loved “Dippy” will overlook the new east gardens which will tell the story of the Earth’s history. With plants and fossils reflecting each geological era, visitors will appreciate – visually – how old our planet is and learn about the profound impact humans have caused in a short space of time.  

The west gardens will be a ‘model’ for urban nature, with different habitats showcasing the biodiversity that can be found in the UK’s urban spaces. Featuring an outdoor learning centre, the west garden will be the platform for the Museum’s national programme with activities aimed at multiple audiences. 


Leading the transformation of the Museum gardens is architectural studio Feilden Fowles, who are working with landscape architects J & L Gibbons and with Gitta Gschwendtner, Engineers HRW and Max Fordham, all contributing to innovative material and management solutions to achieve this. Museum experts are working closely with the team to ensure that the conservation of the biodiversity within the gardens will be at the forefront of the ongoing care and maintenance of the project.

Plans are available to view online here , which highlight measures taken to protect the existing habitats in the garden, simultaneously transforming the space into a contemporary exemplar of urban nature.  

Eleanor Hedley, Associate, Feilden Fowles says, “Feilden Fowles is delighted to mark this important milestone in the development of the Urban Nature Project.

“The project is very important to the practice and, through its focus on sustainability, we have gained significant knowledge which we are applying across our studio to further our social and environmental values. More broadly we hope that this project will raise awareness of the importance of building sustainably, demonstrating that the goal of zero-carbon is an achievable one and allowing the Urban Nature Project to become a benchmark for its application in cultural and historically significant locations.”


Notes for editors  

Natural History Museum Media contact: Tel: +44 (0)20 7942 5654/ (0)779 969 0151 Email:  Images, plans and infographics for the project can be seen here  and high-res images available to download here (available until 31.08.2021)

The Natural History Museum is both a world-leading science research centre and the most visited natural history museum in Europe. With a vision of a future in which both people and the planet thrive, it is uniquely positioned to be a powerful champion for balancing humanity’s needs with those of the natural world.  

It is custodian of one of the world’s most important scientific collections comprising over 80 million specimens. The scale of this collection enables researchers from all over the world to document how species have and continue to respond to environmental changes - which is vital in helping predict what might happen in the future and informing future policies and plans to help the planet.  

The Museum’s 300 scientists continue to represent one of the largest groups in the world studying and enabling research into every aspect of the natural world. Their science is contributing critical data to help the global fight to save the future of the planet from the major threats of climate change and biodiversity loss through to finding solutions such as the sustainable extraction of natural resources. 

The Museum uses its enormous global reach and influence to meet its mission to create advocates for the planet - to inform, inspire and empower everyone to make a difference for nature. We welcome over five million visitors each year, our digital output reaches hundreds of thousands of people in over 200 countries each month and our touring exhibitions have been seen by around 30 million people in the last 10 years.  

Feilden Fowles is an award-winning architecture studio, founded in 2009 by Fergus Feilden and Edmund Fowles. The team believe in a landscape-led approach, and have delivered a range of buildings across the UK , including the 2019 Stirling Prize finalist The Weston visitor centre and gallery at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Wakefield; Waterloo City Farm, where the practice’s studio is located; and The Fratry, Carlisle Cathedral. 

J & L Gibbons is an award-winning landscape architecture studio, founded in 1986. Their projects engage with themes of green infrastructure, healthy living, heritage significance and urban regeneration including, the 2018 Stirling prize finalist Bushey Cemetery; the New Museum of London in West Smithfield; and a collaboration with Tracey Emin, for the design of the Museum Island, at the Munch Museum, Oslo. 

Supporters and sponsors

The National Lottery Heritage Fund

Using money raised by the National Lottery, we Inspire, lead and resource the UK’s heritage to create positive and lasting change for people and communities, now and in the future. .

Follow @HeritageFundUK on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and use #NationalLotteryHeritageFund 

The Evolution Education Trust helps raise awareness of the importance of the Theory of Evolution by funding impactful projects in the areas of therapeutics, education, conservation and fundamental research.

The Cadogan Charity supports communities, contributes to a sustainable environment and protects heritage. It has supported charities involved in animal welfare, education, conservation and the environment, military, medical research and social welfare.

Garfield Weston Foundation - lead partner for Explore Urban Nature

Established over 60 years ago in 1958, the Garfield Weston Foundation is a family-founded, grant-making charity which supports causes across the UK and, in the most recent financial year, gave over £98million as the Trustees were highly conscious of the challenges presented by Covid-19 to the charitable sector. Since it was established, it has exceeded donations of more than £1billion, of which well over half has been given in the past ten years.

One of the most respected charitable institutions in the UK, the Weston Family Trustees are descendants of the founder and they take a highly active and hands-on approach. The Foundation’s funding comes from an endowment of shares in the family business which includes Twinings, Primark, Kingsmill (all part of Associated British Foods Plc) and Fortnum & Mason, amongst others – a successful model that still endures today; as the businesses have grown, so too have the charitable donations.

Known for its transparency, flexibility and straightforward approach, the Foundation supports a broad range of charities from small community organisations to large national institutions. Around 2,000 charities across the UK benefit each year from the Foundation’s grants.

The Wolfson Foundation is an independent charity with a focus on research and education. Its aim is to support civil society by investing in excellent projects in science, health, heritage, humanities and the arts. Since it was established in 1955, some £1 billion (£2 billion in real terms) has been awarded to more than 14,000 projects throughout the UK, all on the basis of expert review. Twitter: @wolfsonfdn

The Huo Family Foundation is a grant-giving foundation. Its mission is to support education, communities and the pursuit of knowledge.  The Foundation previously supported the Natural History Museum’s ‘ID Trainers for the Future’ project which was a response to the critical and growing shortage of wildlife identification and recording skills in the UK.

Johnson Matthey is a global leader in science that enables a cleaner and healthier world. With over 200 years of sustained commitment to innovation and technological breakthroughs, we improve the performance, function and safety of our customers’ products and in 2020 we received the London Stock Exchange’s Green Economy Mark, given to companies that derive more than 50% of revenues from environmental solutions. Our science has a global impact in areas such as low emission transport, pharmaceuticals, chemical processing and making the most efficient use of the planet’s natural resources. Today more than 15,000 Johnson Matthey professionals collaborate with our network of customers and partners to make a real difference to the world around us.

Workman LLP is the UK’s largest independently owned commercial property management and building consultancy firm employing more than 700 staff across 12 UK offices, with a growing presence in Europe. Specialist Property Management and Building Consultancy teams work with a client base which includes leading institutional funds, overseas investors and property companies. What sets Workman apart from the competition is its specialist focus, national coverage and independent status. For further information.