'Natural heritage' deserves Lottery funding

Every part of the United Kingdom has its own distinct woodlands and cultural heritage associated with trees and woods. They are a valuable part of our natural history. Despite the fact that the UK is one of the least wooded countries in Europe, woods and trees are deeply embedded in our culture. Ancient and veteran trees in particular are living relics that inspire awe and mystery. These special places have shaped history, and continue to enrich local culture as well as to support rare wildlife species. 

We are a charity and almost 18% of our funding is received via commercial sponsorship and grants from charitable trusts and bodies. One such funder, the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), is the largest dedicated funder of heritage in the UK and the leading advocate for the value of heritage. HLF funding supports projects like ours which help restore woods, plant trees near communities, and uncover and celebrate our natural history. As part of a strategic review HLF is currently looking at future funding priorities.

It's crucial that 'natural heritage' continues to be supported in funding decisions. Especially if the Government is to achieve its ambitions to connect people with nature and to improve biodiversity that have been set out in the 25 Year Plan. And this isn't just about trying to keep funding for the projects the Trust wants to deliver - we want natural heritage to be given priority for its own sake

Please help us to raise the profile of natural heritage in HLF priorities, and share your own views too. Respond to the consultation using our simple form. 

Click on the green box to read further details about the HLF and this review, and what the Trust wants to see. We've set out the key points in an email you can send straight to the consultation team - simply complete the form and type in the comments box to add your own thoughts. 

Please stand up for your natural heritage, and respond to the consultation before 22 March

What's this all about? 

Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) “uses money raised by National Lottery players to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about”. In early 2019 the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) will begin a new, five-year Strategic Funding Framework that sets out how National Lottery good causes money will be distributed to the heritage sector. A public consultation has been launched (run by the independent research consultancy ComRes acting on the HLF's behalf) on its priorities and how the framework will work. 

What's the problem? 

Other, more traditional, forms of heritage (for example museums, castles) can feature more highly than natural heritage in funding decisions. Our concern is that without support from the conservation sector and the public, this strategic review will not give enough priority to natural heritage in future... unless the consultation results make it clear this is important. Given their contribution to nature and people alike, woods and trees must be seen by HLF as a valid and valuable part of our natural heritage. 

We are keen to give due profile to natural heritage in the HLF consultation, and we hope HLF will give it due consideration. So we're campaigning to engage the general public in responding to this formal consultation, asking that funding towards natural heritage be (at the very least) maintained at the current level. You can read more about our thoughhts here: http://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/blog/2018/02/natural-heritage-winning-ticket/

How are trees and woods 'natural heritage'?   

Heritage links to the past, supports the present and influences the future. It can come in many forms, such as inherited genes passed down from one generation to another (be that human or oak tree). Some cultural heritage is directly linked to nature and the resources humans used to survive and advance. Natural heritage is all the natural resources and biodiversity that make up landscapes. It includes the underlying geology, soils and landforms, as well as all the flora and fauna, and the ecosystems they create.

In the UK, trees are important biological features that have transformed landscapes, supported biodiversity and been an essential resource for people or thousands of years. Evidence of past tree cover, including how it was managed, is part of the story of the ecological development of the land and the people that lived on it. Many existing wooded environments contain important historical features. The contribution woodland and trees have made over centuries are still very relevant today: 

  • The Oak is a national symbol, especially in England. We have more ancient trees, mostly outside woods, than anywhere in Northern Europe, and the vast majority of Europe’s ancient Yews, mostly standing in churchyards. The yew has been venerated since the Neolithic Age, and most ancient yews are found in Britain. The mysterious Fortingall Yew in Scotland is perhaps Europe’s oldest living being. 
  • The Magna Carta, world famous as a ‘bill of rights’  was most probably sealed under the Ankerwycke Yew in Runnymede, a meeting place of Anglo-Saxon kings. This inspired a Charter of the Forests in 1217, which has led in turn to the 2017 Charter for Trees, Woods and People. 
  • The ‘Atlantic Rainforest’  woodlands of the west coasts of Wales, Scotland and Ireland are world famous amongst scientists and naturalists for their ferns, mosses, lichens and bluebells.
  • The ‘Great Wood of Caledon’ and the remaining Caledonian Pine Forests of the Scottish Highlands have inspired myth and legend, intrigued visitors since at least Roman times, and now inspire a major movement to ‘reforest Scotland’. The story origins of Merlin and Arthur, inspiration for countless books and films, lie buried somewhere in the wooded hills of Wales. Woods like Sherwood Forest gave the world Robin Hood, Winnie the Pooh, The Gruffolo and many, many more beloved characters
  • A Victorian battle to save common rights in Epping Forest, a ‘green lung’ for Londoners, helped initiate the modern conservation movement. 
  • We still ‘touch wood’ for luck, bring holly into our homes at Christmas, kiss under the mistletoe and without even thinking about it, carry on traditions whose origins lie deep in our woodland past.  

Read more about natural heritage and trees and woodland in WoodWise.

How has HLF supported the Woodland Trust?

The National Lottery has supported the Woodland Trust through its grant giving programmes since 1994. In that time the Trust has benefitted from a total of £30million (of which HLF funding totals over £20m) thanks to players of the National Lottery, which have been invaluable in kick-starting many of our land purchases as well as our restoration, planting and engagement activities. HLF currently fund our work on 50,000 hectares of ancient woodland was urgently in need of restoration – from the Glens of Scotland to Exmoor at the foot of England. Most recently, in 2017 HLF awarded the Trust £1.9m to help us acquire and restore Smithills Estate near Bolton. Other projects awarded HLF grants include £800,000 in 2016 to restore ancient woodland at Fingle Woods in Devon and £341,000 to enhance the visitor experience at Tring Park in Hertfordshire in 2012.

This campaign action isn't just about trying to keep funding for the projects the Trust wants to deliver - we want to see natural heritage given priority for its own sake. 

How does HLF funding actually work? 

For every lottery ticket sold, a slice of the money received goes to good causes. Around 95% of the National Lottery total revenue goes back to winners and society. Decisions on how and where funding is invested are made by 12 specialist organisations chosen by Parliament for their knowledge and expertise to help ensure the money goes exactly where it’s needed. In the year ending 31 March 2017, the funds were shared as follows:

  • Health, education, environment and charitable causes – 40%
  • Sport – 20%
  • Arts – 20%
  • Heritage – 20%

HLF distributes the heritage share of National Lottery funding through a series of competitive grant programmes to which charities, community groups and other organisations can apply (grants range from £3,000 to £5m). All applications are assessed against the grant criteria and depending on the grant programme and level of funding requested, decisions are made by Heads of Regions/Nations, local committees or the board of trustees.

What happens to my comments?

Through our simple form, you will send a response directly to the consultation team. Read more about what happens next on the HLF website.

What will happen when the consultation closes? 

The consultation ends on 22 March 2018. We will post a blog with our response and share this with our campaigners, and may invite you to engage in any next steps. If this is your first campaign action with the Woodland Trust, we hope this will be the first of many. As well as receiving an introductory email to the Trust, you may be invited to support other targeted (e.g local, or themed) campaign actions when we need your help most. 

The formal consultation, hosted for HLF by ComRes, can be found here: http://surveys.comres.co.uk/wix/2/p1862857042.aspx.

How will the Woodland Trust use my details? Will you send me information about the progress of this campaign or others I can get involved with?

We will not sell or share your details with third parties or use them for any purpose other than what you have agreed to in taking this action. If you have ticked the box to agree we can contact you again, we will let you know about future threats to ancient woods and trees near you and other campaigns you can get involved in.

I want to donate too - what will my donation be used for?

All our campaigns are connected to PayPal and offer links to other online regular or one-off donation options to make it easy for you to support us financially. All donations go directly towards helping the Trust to achieve its charitable objectives of protecting ancient woodland, restoring damaged ancient woodland and planting new woodlands to help create a more resilient landscape for our natural environment. Both people and wildlife will benefit.

Please help more people get involved by spreading the word - here's the link to use: http://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/get-involved/campaign-with-us/our-campaigns/hlf-review-2018/ or share the campaign using the social buttons.

I'm standing up for natural heritage


responses already sent


Please complete the form below - your name and postcode will be automatically added in to your email, which will be sent to Alice Ralston at ComRes who is leading on the consultation for the Lottery. We've included some of the key points around trees and woodland's role in natural heritage - all you need to do is add in your own thoughts: start typing in the comments box and your words will be added in to the email. 

Your details