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Access to Nature

8 May 2014

Access to Nature

In this guest blog, Natural England’s Steve Roberts, lead adviser (communications) for Access to Nature, looks back at the impact and successes of the scheme now that it is coming to an end. 

Access to Nature was run by Natural England and funded by the Big Lottery Fund. We worked on behalf of a consortium of 11 other major environmental organisations and distributed over £28m of lottery funding through the scheme.

Let Nature Feed Your Senses

Let Nature Feed Your Senses

The purpose of Access to Nature was to encourage more people to benefit from being outdoors. In particular the scheme targeted people who faced social exclusion or those that had little or no contact with the natural environment – perhaps because they lacked the confidence to get out and enjoy natural places or had few opportunities to do so.

A total of 115 grants were awarded, ranging from around £50,000 to £500,000. These projects ranged from local community-based schemes through to national initiatives led by large organisations. Projects had wide-ranging aspirations, from supporting disadvantaged groups to visit the countryside, to providing a range of volunteering and educational opportunities for local communities and young people.

Steve Roberts, lead adviser, Access to Nature

Steve Roberts, Access to Nature

My role in the team was to help promote the work of the scheme within Natural England and externally. I produced a quarterly e-newsletter which was widely distributed, including to all our projects. The Spring 2014 newsletter, the seventh and final issue, was published in early March.

Four annual networking ‘Making Links’ events were held to enable projects across the country to meet up and share best practice. The most recent, featured in the Winter 2013 newsletter, was particularly memorable as we took the opportunity to recognise the crucial contributions of volunteers around the country in a special awards ceremony co-hosted by TV’s John Craven OBE.

At the end of the third Making Links event a video montage was shown that showcased the work of a few of our projects. It clearly demonstrates the positive and uplifting impact that Access to Nature had on a diverse range of people.

The initiative leaves a great legacy behind it and the projects have had a hugely positively impact on the communities involved.

Let Nature Feed Your Senses

Let Nature Feed Your Senses

The other major legacy of Access to Nature is the knowledge and learning gained from evaluation of the scheme. These findings have given us insight into the initiative’s successes and highlight how learning from it could be used effectively by other schemes in the future.

Our evaluation findings show that thanks to the fantastic Access to Nature projects, over one million people across the country have been given greater opportunity to actively experience and enjoy the natural environment.

In addition, the scheme has meant that over 650,000 people have benefited from physical improvements to their local natural environment and over 400,000 participants have had a new learning opportunity related to the environment. Everyone involved in Access to Nature can be proud of the difference it’s made.

Access to Nature closed to new applications in May 2010, with the final main grant awards being made in December 2010. Support to projects ceased at the end of March 2014.

See also BIG Stories

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