£1.3m scheme to restore New Forest habitats and increase biodiversity

11th April 2024

Along with five partners, Freshwater Habitats Trust is celebrating an award from the Species Survival Fund to help halt species decline and restore habitats in the New Forest.

The funding will bolster Freshwater Habitats Trust’s work to protect and expand the New Forest’s internationally significant freshwater environment and the diverse range of species it supports. It will enable the charity to build on its Blue Horizons project, which  is improving the running and standing water network in the New Forest.

The New Forest is a world capital for wildlife underpinned by an ancient tradition of free-roaming commoning animals. However, the New Forest is not immune to changes that have seen habitats lost and species decline. The funding will see partner organisations and landowners working together to enhance 250 hectares of land for nature across 25 sites – the equivalent of 350 football pitches.

Improving habitats and re-establishing links between them will help plant and animal species thrive and create the conditions for a host of other species to flourish.

Shallow pond with trees reflected and a blue sky

- A temporary lawn pond at Longdown in the New Forest

Among the partners, 14 jobs will be created or retained, five interns will develop green skills with the aim of going on to work in the environment sector and 50 new volunteers will be recruited.

The Fund, a partnership between Defra and The National Lottery Heritage Fund, has allocated £1.04 million to the scheme which, with additional funding from the partners, represents a total investment into the New Forest of £1.3 million.

The partners are:

Partners will be supported by the RSPB and the New Forest Biodiversity Forum.


Conservation work will see an increased abundance of wildlife species and improve the connection of the New Forest’s protected central core or Crown Lands with the areas around it so species can spread out further. Woodland, boggy mires, heathland, meadow, wetlands and streams will be improved. New ponds, wetlands and meadows will be created. The programme will also help New Forest habitats to become more resilient to climate change.

The new and retained staff, volunteers and interns will help with practical landscape improvements for wildlife as well as carrying out surveys. They will also share ways to improve areas for nature with other landowners and communities through demonstration sites, working with the Forest’s community green groups, guided walks, talks and online campaigns.

Nationally the fund will create and improve natural habitats, helping Defra to meet its target to protect 30% of land for nature by 2030 (known as ’30by30’).

Cotton grass in a New Forest mire

- Cotton grass in a New Forest mire

Freshwater Habitats Trust Area Lead – New Forest Gemma Stride said: “As we build the Freshwater Network, our priority is to protect the very best remaining freshwater habitats and build out from these wildlife hotspots. With its clean, unpolluted water and rich biodiversity, the New Forest is an internationally significant landscape for freshwater biodiversity. Working with our partners, we are committed to protecting the Forest’s running and standing waters and the incredibly rich communities of species they support.

“We are delighted to be part of this partnership, which gives us the opportunity to deliver real benefits for wildlife and reverse the decline in freshwater biodiversity.”

New Forest National Park Authority Chair David Bence said: “Over half the National Park is designated for its international importance for nature – a higher proportion than any other UK national park. This combination of habitats is hard to find anywhere else in western Europe. Yet, like elsewhere, nature is under serious threat here and the New Forest is the last stronghold for some species.

”National parks cover 10% of England and are vital in helping Defra meet its 30by30 conservation target. This programme represents a major step forward in the urgent conservation work we and our partners need to do for the New Forest, particularly in and around the National Park boundary.”

The Government’s Species Survival Fund was developed by Defra and its Arm’s-Length Bodies. It is being delivered by The National Lottery Heritage Fund in partnership with Natural England and the Environment Agency.

Highland cattle in a field with shallow ponds

- Highland cattle in the New Forest National Park

The Fund has seen grants of up to £3 million awarded across England for habitat creation and restoration projects to run over the next two years, helping to halt and reverse the decline in species abundance by preserving vital habitats.

Eilish McGuinness, Chief Executive, The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “We are delighted to be working in partnership with Defra again to distribute funding for these projects, which will support nature recovery by helping to boost the quality and quantity of wildlife-rich habitats across England.  This partnership will further our vision for heritage to be valued, cared for and sustained for everyone, now and in the future.

“The funding awarded today as part our flagship Species Survival Fund will enable local authorities, landowners, farmers, and our protected landscapes organisations to restore nature at scale and provide valuable green jobs in the process.

“Only by creating bigger and better habitats for wildlife will we be able to halt the alarming decline in species loss. This fund will be a key plank in achieving our legally binding targets to halt species loss and protect 30% land for nature by 2030.”

Find out more about Blue Horizons
Small shallow pond with a large tree growing behind it.

- A pond at Busketts Wood in the New Forest