We’re over the moon! The Heritage Lottery Fund is supporting our proposals for a £6 million project at WWT Slimbridge. We will have the chance to do something extraordinary to celebrate the life of Sir Peter Scott and open twelve new and fabulous visitor attractions. And visitors will explore the amazing world of wetlands through a range of new and ground-breaking exhibits at the birthplace of modern conservation.
Sir Peter Scott, our founder, is still at the heart of what we do at WWT. Scott was a visionary who understood that people and nature are part of the same intertwined ecosystem. He realised – ahead of his time – that our wealth, our health and our emotional wellbeing all depend on the natural world. He understood that showing people how amazing wetlands are can ignite a passion to conserve them. That’s why everything we are planning will offer a fun and hands-on experience for new and existing visitors.
For example, we want to build a theatre within a huge aviary, as a way to show people free-flying birds, close up. Typical British wetland birds – normally a dot on an estuary – will be just a few metres away. And the theatre will include demonstrations of all that is wonderful about those precious places where land meets water – birds, habitats, the science behind wetland conservation, protecting endangered species, life on the Severn Estuary. The possibilities are endless.
Over the next five years we will be opening up Scott’s home to the public. This is where he lived and worked. It became the centre of worldwide conservation for much of the 1950s and 60s, and remains remarkably unchanged since Scott’s time. It will be an inspiring place to dive into the 20th century history of nature conservation.
We’re also building new exhibits to let visitors get close to some of our tiniest birds – the ducklings. We’ll demonstrate the techniques we use to save endangered species around the world, as well as show visitors how they can support waterlife themselves. They’ll also be able to step inside a research station of the kind that Scott used when tracking and studying his beloved Bewick’s swans on the remote Russian tundra. We’re recreating a research hut on site – hold your nose though, it’s a bit rough and ready out in the wilds!
Scott was a world-renowned artist – and we want to encourage visitors to get creative too. We’ll be converting one of our flamingo houses into an art space for have-a-go artists of all ages, with inspiration just outside the window in the duck farmyard.
A visit isn’t complete without seeing the wild areas that surround our main centre. It was wild Slimbridge that brought Peter Scott here – a habitat so rare and special, he called it ‘the avian Serengeti’. We want to make this environment much more accessible. A new tower hide will give incredible views of over-wintering birds. It will also be the entry point for the summer walkway to the Severn Estuary and a specially designed mobile hide on the banks of the Severn.
So what do we need to do now? The Heritage Lottery Fund has given us just over a year to develop really good costed plans for our ideas. And they are helping us pay for the team we’re going to need to do this work, so we can unlock our full funding.
So, we’re cracking on!
Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF)
HLF is the largest dedicated funder of heritage in the UK. It uses money raised by National Lottery players to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about.
For us at WWT, we have approached the HLF for a large grant to help us tell the story of Sir Peter Scott. The son of “Scott of the Antarctic”, Peter Scott became an international leader in worldwide conservation. He was one of the founder members of the World Wildlife Fund and the founder of WWT. That ‘Panda’ logo that we all know? That was Scott’s handiwork.
HLF are helping us to bring Scott to life through a series of exhibits that tell his story – from war hero, to painter, to Olympic sportsman and conservationist. His history really is incredible, and his legacy is a worldwide conservation movement that still drives all of our work at WWT today.
For more information on the HLF and the work that it does in supporting our heritage, visit: www.hlf.org.uk/about-us