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Green and blue horizons scheme successes

The Green and blue horizons from city to Forest scheme, led by the NPA, came to an end in spring 2023, bringing funding to a range of organisations.

The £800,000 investment in the New Forest brought thousands of people together to extend nature networks and create wildlife-rich corridors that link National Park habitats to neighbouring towns and cities.

Highlights include:

  • Land equivalent to 97 football pitches improved for nature and climate resilience across 27 sites.

  • 4,575 hours given by volunteers

  • 200 events reaching around 9,500 people

  • 19 jobs created or retained.

The 18-month multi-partner scheme kickstarted action to confront the twin climate and nature emergencies with projects to restore habitats, begin our path towards net zero with nature and help new and diverse audiences connect with the New Forest.

Areas of grassland, woodland, hedgerows, streams, and ponds were improved and numerous opportunities opened up for people to understand, value and help to care for the landscape.

Across the scheme, 19 jobs were created or retained at the New Forest National Park Authority and among our partner organisations of the Countryside Education Trust, Freshwater Habitats Trust, Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, and New Forest Commoners Defence Association.

Land improved for nature and climate

105ha of land (equivalent to 97 football pitches) improved across 27 sites.

Species return to woodland near Lymington

At Furzey Ground woodland near Lymington, Freshwater Habitats Trust (FHT) worked to remove invasive non-native species and carry out gentle thinning to create light pockets where wetland features exist. Invasive plants such as Himalayan balsam and rhododendron had overtaken the woodland, stifling the native plants and sucking the nutrients from the soil.

Specialist wetland plants now flourish including lesser skullcap, water mint, marsh bedstraw, yellow loosestrife, flag iris, bugle, figwort, and ragged robin.

Common darter and golden ringed dragonflies have also returned to the improved areas.

New Forest waterways species returned


Expert advice and training given to landowners, farmers and commoners

Partners have worked with networks and clusters of farming, commoning, and landowner groups to help improve landscape-scale resilience.

Advice has included developing the health of freshwaters, ways to improve water quality, opportunities for training include bankside and grazing management and species identification.

As a result, one landowner received a grant and two others are potential candidates for grants to carry out work beneficial to the Forest.

The networks and clusters continue to meet and be guided with expert advice now the Horizons project has finished, demonstrating that such funding can provide a platform for ongoing success across the Forest.

Dexter cows on back up grazing land.


Innovative solutions to protect water quality

The scheme has helped find innovative ways for small rural businesses to protect water quality and reduce reliance on mains water supplies. FHT worked on one site to install a new rainwater harvesting system that takes rainwater from roof surfaces and stores it in tanks holding around 120,000 litres – the equivalent of 100 hot tubs full of water.

These tanks have saved the rural business nearly £3,000 per year in mains supply and provided water during drought periods. They also benefit freshwater biodiversity by reducing the amount of water impacting the surrounding areas that leads to nutrient and sediment run-off.

Water tanks installed by FHT. Photo: FHT

115 volunteer events with 235 regular volunteers (4,575 hours)

 Volunteers take part in New Forest Waterblitz

‘The New Forest’s wetland landscape is both ancient and fragile, with areas boasting pristine streams, ponds and mires all bursting with rare species. It’s one of the best and most important freshwater and coastal landscapes in the UK.’

-Thea Margetts, FHT project officer

FHT worked with volunteers to carry out a ‘Waterblitz’, testing the quality of waters in the New Forest.

177 volunteers collected 800 samples from ponds, lakes, ditches, streams, and rivers from all over the New Forest. Results showed that 85% of waterbody samples are clean, 8% have some pollution and 8% are high pollution.

The Forest’s ponds are the cleanest of the water bodies with 93% classed as clean.

Water Blitz volunteer. Photo:FHT


New Forest National Park Authority (NPA) volunteers continued their hard work

More than 100 volunteer events were coordinated and delivered by the National Park Authority.

235 people spent nearly 4,600 hours clearing paths, planting hedgerows, removing invasive plant species, picking litter, carrying out surveys of the Rights of Way network and protecting archaeology features. The team has also been working alongside Horizons partners to improve the New Forest’s freshwaters as well as plant new hedgerows that act as wildlife corridors for nature to be able to move across the landscape.

NFNPA volunteers


Engaging people about nature and climate

200 events reaching over 9,500 people

The Fort Climate Centre – a new educational hub in the New Forest
woman pointing out to children the animals in a farm pen
Sophie, Duchess of Edinburgh, opens the Fort Climate Centre in Beaulieu

The Countryside Education Trust (CET) in Beaulieu opened its new climate centre.

Officially opened in March by HRH The Countess of Wessex (now the Duchess of Edinburgh), the centre is an educational and community-based hub for people of all ages to learn about the New Forest.

The building was donated to the Countryside Education Trust by the Fort Foundation, inspired by Mr E.S. Fort OBE. The centre reflects Mr Fort’s long-held desire to bring education about climate change to the public to encourage action on the climate emergency.

The Horizons scheme paid for educational material and interpretation boards at the centre, as well as staff and interns to run workshops and courses.

The new Fort Climate Centre in Beaulieu


Communications role brings national attention to Commoning

The New Forest Commoners Defence Association (CDA) created a new dedicated role to raise awareness and communicate key messages about commoning. As a result, the CDA  gained national press attention as well as a growing social media presence over the 18 months.

Stories on road safety, the importance of cattle, and the work commoners do to protect their animals garnered national attention in the press.

The CDA’s social media presence under the name of ‘Real New Forest’ expanded. Posts on its social media pages reached an audience of 2.1 million and its total following grew by 17%. This has helped build a strong platform for future communications from the CDA and it now has a dedicated media library, website tracking, and a strategy moving forward with social media.

About the Green Recovery Challenge Fund

The Horizons project was funded by the Government’s Green Recovery Challenge Fund, developed by Defra and its Arm’s-Length Bodies. It was delivered by The National Lottery Heritage Fund in partnership with Natural England, the Environment Agency and Forestry Commission.

The scheme incorporated four themes:

1) Nature conservation and restoration, including ecosystem restoration and species recovery. Extending the network of Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), creating wildlife-rich corridors, and linking New Forest habitats to Bournemouth and Southampton.

2) Nature-based solutions, particularly for climate change mitigation and adaptation. Reducing land-based emissions by restoring habitats, working with farmers, landowners, and land managers to develop climate resilience.

3) Connecting people with nature. Developing volunteering and outreach programmes focusing on those with most to gain, who will become more connected with nature and gain new pathways to employment.

4) Jobs and skills. Creating and retaining jobs across several partners and developing a thriving volunteer workforce and green skills hub in the National Park.

Green Recovery Challenge Fund Evaluation – The National Lottery Heritage Fund


More on Green and blue horizons from city to Forest scheme

A multi-partner scheme which brought an £800,000 investment into the New Forest.

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