Suffolk Wildlife Trust receives £4m of National Lottery Funding

Monday 23rd April 2018

Grant will support purchase of land around Carlton Marshes, building of destination visitor centre and creation of precious wetland habitat

Suffolk Wildlife Trust’s vision of a new nature reserve in the Broads is to be realised following a decision by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to award a grant of £4,063,000 – one of the largest ever received by a Wildlife Trust.

The support will enable the Trust to complete the purchase of 348 acres of land surrounding Carlton Marshes reserve and create a 1,000 acre landscape-scale reserve that will become a gateway to the Broads National Park.

The project will be the biggest habitat restoration and wetland creation in the National Park for a decade and it is the Trust’s ambition for the site to become a National Nature Reserve in the next five years – reflecting the ecological importance of the habitat as well as its social and cultural impact.

The Trust can also now reveal that a state-of-the art visitor centre will be built on the site, helping to make the reserve a national wildlife destination and one of the most accessible nature experiences in East Anglia.

Julian Roughton, Chief Executive of Suffolk Wildlife Trust, said the award from HLF was a defining moment for the county’s conservation efforts and one of the most significant events in the charity’s 56-year history.

“The support from the HLF means that Suffolk Wildlife Trust can now begin restoring this precious part of East Anglia and create a place where wildness spreads as far as the eye can see. This nature reserve will be now safeguarded forever, providing homes for some of the UK’s most iconic species.

“As well as being good for wildlife the new visitor centre, new walkways and boardwalks across the marshes will help even more people explore the landscape and discover the wonders of the natural world. This nature reserve will be a flagship conservation story for the UK showing how nature can be brought back.”

HLF’s decision to award the grant follows nine-months of community and stakeholder consultation by the Trust – work that was also funded by players of the National Lottery.

The whole project will cost around £8million with a further £4million coming from the Trust, through legacy gifts, volunteer time and the ongoing public fundraising campaign – which is now just £95,000 away from the £1million target.

Stephanie Hilborne OBE, Chief Executive of The Wildlife Trusts, said: “Players of the National Lottery are helping Suffolk Wildlife Trust give a new lease of life to wildlife in a spectacular largescale habitat restoration project. This will make a vital contribution to nature’s recovery in the UK and is also an investment in the health of our society and in our economy.

“Never have people been so distant from nature and never before have we needed it more. Contact with nature reduces anxiety and improves our physical and mental health. This wild haven and its wonderful new centre will allow people to get that all-important boost of positivity and help tourism.”

With this new purchase, HLF has now helped acquire over 80,000 hectares of land for nature in the UK – over twice the size of the Isle of Wight.

Robyn Llewellyn, Head of HLF East of England, said: “This is wonderful news for nature at the Southern tip of the Broads – and it’s also so much more than that. Creating a new destination on the edge of Lowestoft will increase the opportunities for people in the town to visit the landscape on their doorstep.

“It will also be a magnet for visitors, from bird-watchers to holidaying families, bringing them further along the coast from the well-established tourist hotspots in Suffolk and Norfolk and boosting the local economy.

"This investment in the Broads National Park is just one part of a widespread package of funding from the National Lottery in the Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth area, offering exciting opportunities to enjoy and explore history, culture and the natural environment.”

The purchase has also been publically-backed by Sir David Attenborough, President Emeritus of The Wildlife Trusts.

He said: “England’s wildlife is under great and ever-growing pressure. It is vital that we restore our land on a landscape scale so that it can support more wild plants and animals. Suffolk Wildlife Trust’s ambition to extend Carlton and Oulton Marshes is a unique opportunity to do just this and it has my whole-hearted support.”

Planning consent for the new visitor centre was granted earlier this year and the timber-clad, energy efficient structure will be built on land overlooking the marshes. The building, designed to weather and blend into the landscape will include a cafe, a shop, activity room and an outdoor playscape for children.

The centre, which is due to be completed by 2020, will be the starting point for visitors to learn about and venture out into the Broadland landscape – somewhere people feel comfortable, whether they are visiting a nature reserve for the first time, or if they are seasoned naturalists.

For the people of Lowestoft, whose town sits on Carlton Marshes’ doorstep, the reserve and centre will become a much-needed hub of activity supporting learning, recreation, relaxation and play for families, groups and individuals of all ages.

The process of restoration and habitat creation is due to begin soon and by the time the new centre is complete, the whole of the western fringe of Lowestoft will have been transformed into a water-filled landscape.

More than 150 acres of marsh, fen meadow and shallow pools will be created, with thousands of metres of soft muddy edges, for wintering wildfowl and nationally declining waders like lapwing and redshank to feed.

A seven-mile network of restored freshwater ditches will be amongst the best in the UK and will allow Broadland specialists including plants, water voles and the rare fen raft spider to spread across the landscape.

A gigantic reedbeed, one of the largest in the Broads, will support breeding bittern as well as reed bunting, grasshopper warbler and breeding marsh harrier.

Carlton Marshes, already one of the best sites in the country to see birds (the rare American Bittern visited in April this year – the first UK record since 2010 and the first ever for East Anglia) will attract even more wildlife.

The reserve will become one of the UK’s premier raptor sites – with hobby in the summer, short-eared owl in the winter and marsh harrier and barn owl all year round. A new tower hide will allow visitors to experience a hawk’s-eye-view of their movements.

To donate to the campaign and help raise the last £95,000 of matchfunding click here.

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