Press release – Back from the Brink

Effort to save endangered species voted best heritage project at National Lottery Awards

  • The rare-species conservation project was voted the best heritage project by members of the public at the National Lottery 25th Birthday celebration
  • In just three years, the project has brought together experts and almost 3,000 volunteers providing more than twenty-years-worth of volunteer time to help save endangered species

The ground-breaking project Back from the Brink has been voted the best heritage project at the National Lottery Awards. The project was only possible thanks to £4.6 million in funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, is a collaboration of conservation organisations working together to save England’s most endangered species from extinction.

Back from the Brink projects are working across England from Cornwall to Northumberland, as specialists and volunteers work to save 20 species from extinction and put 100 more on the road to recovery. Vital to the success of the project has been its volunteers, so far almost 3,000 people have contributed more than 6,000 days of volunteer time – the equivalent of more than twenty years of work, all to save endangered species.

This work and volunteer effort is paying off.

Chequered Skipper. Photo: Ian H Leach

In Northamptonshire, the Butterfly Conservation-led Roots of Rockingham project have reintroduced the Chequered Skipper butterfly which was last seen in England in 1976. Adult butterflies were brought over from Belgium and released at a secret site in Rockingham Forest. This year the first English-bred Chequered Skippers emerged in almost fifty years.

In Northumberland, the Vincent Wildlife Trust-led Pine Marten project managed to capture the first ever footage of a Pine Marten in Northumberland, and has seen a surge in reports of this species from the public.

In Sussex, the RSPB-led Field Cricket project has translocated crickets to new sites to form new populations. This year more than 300 males were heard calling at RSPB Farnham Heath alone, an amazing success considering that in the 1980s there were less than 100 left in the entire country.

Marsh Clubmoss. Photo: Sophie Lake

In Dorset, the Plantlife-led Dorset’s Heathland Heart project had amazing success with their innovative Marsh Clubmoss conservation strategy – driving over it with a tractor. This deliberate work created new areas of disturbed ground, exactly what this tiny, rare wild plant needs to thrive, and the population quadrupled as a result.

The Bumblebee Conservation-led Shrill Carder Bee project has worked with local landowners in Somerset & the Thames Gateway to improve the management of over 100 hectares of land for the species, and new sites have been found for this endangered bumblebee.

In Devon, the Buglife-led Narrow-headed Ant project has been trialling techniques to translocate entire nests from their last remaining English site and back onto historical sites that are now better managed for the species.

Also in Devon, the Bat Conservation Trust-led Grey Long-eared Bat project has been making more people aware of one of the rarest mammals in the UK. From a starting point of many people in the local community being unaware of this species to being concerned in their conservation is a great outcome. One of the biggest wins for the project has been inspiring land owners to take this rare species into account in the way they manage their farmland.

In Merseyside, the Amphibian & Reptile Conservation-led Gems in the Dunes project has been working with enthusiastic volunteers to survey the tiny, endangered and beautiful Petalwort. When the project began this delicate liverwort was only known from four sites within the Sefton Dunes with a total of 100 individuals, but thanks to the dedicated searching of local people we have found more than 2,500 plants across fifteen sites.

James Harding-Morris from Back from the Brink said ‘One of the real wonders of Back from the Brink is how people have welcomed the often-obscure species we’re working on into their hearts. When endangered species are mentioned it is very easy to think of pandas, tigers and polar bears, but in fact there are even rarer species on our doorsteps that all of us can help save on a local scale.‘.

If you would like to get involved or find out how you could help save an endangered species from extinction visit: 

The National Lottery Awards show is broadcast on the 19tNovember on BBC One.


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6 Replies to “Press release – Back from the Brink”

  1. I recall earlier this month you said you'd never bought a lottery ticket Mark. Too reckless you said. Someone obviously buys them hence these huge sums for worthy projects. I suppose direct giving is more focussed but I can't see Crowdfunding raising these large amounts.

    1. Richard - do you buy lottery tickets?

      53% is retuned to ticket buyers as prizes (a poor investment), 25% goes to good causes (a poor return). Very reckless compared with giving your £1 directly to the cause you support. But it is a good way of removing money from the avaricious and giving it to some good causes.

  2. When I was working with the very popular and successful HLF Parks programme I was told that there is a big difference between the attitudes of the Trustees (the great and the good) and the general public - the former favoured things like pictures and buildings whilst the latter - as we've seen with this award - were much keener on green spaces and wildlife.

    20 years on I continue to wonder what might have been acjieved had the £1 billion spent on the millennium dome instead been spent of green spaces close to where people live - one thing that is for certain is it would have left its mark throughout the UK, rather than, as ever, just in London.

  3. I've read that over its 25 years the Lottery has so far given 829 million pounds to conservation projects. That's an enormous amount of money by any standard, but to put it in context last year the UK market for bottled water was about 3 billion quid so even if the 829 million was the annual spend by the lottery on conservation it would be dwarfed by what is spent on a totally superfluous waste producing, transport requiring and air pollution causing alternative to drinking tap water. So in reality the money from the lottery to help wildlife is actually a tiny fraction of the sum spent on the lunacy that is bottled water. If we can find ways in which reducing waste and the associated financial cost of it could redirect a part of the savings towards good causes then there's a potentially enormous new source of funds for charities, community projects etc and we've added a new dimension to waste reduction efforts that might finally see them kick off especially with complimentary public education on the environmental benefits of doing so (at last!). Charities put so much effort to get what they can out of a pot, about time they looked at ways of making the pot bigger?

  4. Wow ! I think you've hit on something there, Les - why not a decent tax - maybe 30p/litre on bottled water ? After all, as you rightly point out, it is a complete luxury. I was staggered in a book 'Water - life in every drop' by Julian Caldecott to discover that the world market is $100 billion - as big and unexpected shock as the figures for gamebird releases in the UK. Whilst in the developed world it's just waste, in the developing world he points out that the rich being able to buy safe bottled water slows down investment for everyone to have safe water.

    1. I didn't know bottled water in developing countries is slowing down investment for safer water supplies for everyone, but that adds up - money spent on crap like bottled water or over packaging is money lost for things with genuine social and environmental benefits and we are talking billions and billions of pounds. What turns my stomach most is that apparently bottled water companies are hoping that in developing countries it will very much be a status symbol as in 'Look at me I can afford to buy a bottle of water and you can't!' which considering that so many children die there of preventable diseases caused by poor water supplies is contemptible of both those companies and anybody who indulges in this particularly grotesque oneupmanship. I'm writing up an article about a possible way money can be raised by providing an alternative to bottled water and yesterday was speaking to an artist to see if he could do an illustration for it. Hopefully it'll be ready in the new year. I'd never heard of that book - I'll definitely look into it thanks.


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