National Lottery Open Week: #ThanksToYou

From Saturday 9 to Sunday 17 March, we are Opening Up for National Lottery players to experience nature on RSPB reserves.

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Bluebells cover the woodland floor surrounded by tall trees.
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This year, the National Lottery is celebrating its 30th birthday! Since 1994, the RSPB has received over £60 million in funding from the National Lottery, enabling us to take action for nature on a greater scale. It’s #ThanksToYou, National Lottery players, that some of our most ambitious projects have been possible.    

To show our appreciation, 37 participating reserves are offering a range of free activities, including free entry or free guided walks, for visitors who present a valid National Lottery ticket or scratch card.


As a celebration of the National Lottery’s birthday, we’re looking back on some of the highlights made possible with support from the National Lottery Heritage Fund and National Lottery Community Fund. #ThanksToYou, we have been able to:

Create wild days out on our nature reserves

RSPB Loch Lomond - Scotland

Loch Lomond is a mosaic of important habitats, made up of grassland, wetlands and fen. The trails meander through woodlands carpeted with bluebells in the early spring and scored by the song of Tree Pipits in the summer.  In 2021, Loch Lomond received £242,800 in funding from National Lottery Heritage Fund for the creation of a new trail, linking the path bordering the Loch’s shore to the existing trail network and Visitor Centre for the first time. The trail opens out on to expansive waters, where Ospreys can be plunging feet first to catch fish. This funding has transformed the access for visitors and particularly those with mobility needs as well as those with pushchairs, allowing more people to enjoy this incredible place. We also delivered an exciting programme of events and activities for visitors and included viewing areas and interpretation.

The view of the lake at Loch Lomond with views of mountains in the back and autumnal trees to the side.

RSPB Minsmere - Suffolk

In 1947, when RSPB first began managing Minsmere, the hides were built from any material the wardens could access: including debris washed up on the shingle beach.  Now the reserve welcomes roughly 100,000 visitors per year to experience booming Bitterns, stealth Stone-curlew and rutting Red Deer.  The receipt of almost £1million in National Lottery Heritage funding allowed us to redevelop Minsmere’s Visitor Centre, which included installing solar panels and rainwater harvesting facilities. The funding also contributed to a purpose-built education space: visiting schools can select from a suite of outdoor learning sessions, linked to their curriculum, in the Discovery Centre and families can enjoy natural play in the Wild Zone.

A view of Boomacre Mere at Minsmere surrounded by reedbeds and pink flowers.

Enhance habitats and safeguard species

LIFE Raft: Rathlin Acting for Tomorrow – Northern Ireland

The UK holds host to internationally important colonies of breeding seabirds, of which many species face serious threats from a variety of mounting pressures, including changing climate, a lack of habitat and avian influenza. Some habitats are seeing steep declines in breeding seabird success, due to introductions of invasive, predatory species. Rathlin Island is a stronghold for breeding Guillemots, Kittiwakes and Puffins; however, these seabirds are seeing sharp population declines. The LIFE Raft project is an attempt at an island-wide eradication of non-native Brown Rats and feral Ferrets, to improve breeding chances. RSPB NI are partners in the project, funded in part by National Lottery Heritage Fund, which hopes to see the return of the locally extinct Manx Shearwater breeding once again on Rathlin Island.

A view of the cliffs leading into the sea, with waves crashing at the base.

Hyde’s Heath - Dorset

Creating bigger, better and more joined up habitats is essential for nature’s recovery. In the UK’s first Super National Nature Reserve, Purbeck Heath, sits RSPB Arne: a patchwork of lowland heath, grassland, woodland and saltmarsh. Home to Dartford Warblers, Nightjars and all six species of UK reptile, National Lottery funding has enabled the acquisition of more land, expanding areas of low-lying heathland. Hyde’s Heath was 67 hectares of Scots pine plantation, which thanks to supporters and the National Lottery, has been restored to heathland over the past five years. This land acquisition has also improved habitat connectivity, joining up RSPB Arne to the surrounding Arne Moors. Alongside improving habitat, the project aimed to increase people’s access to nature, and the funding allowed for the introduction of a Shuttlebus ‘2RN’, running from the reserve to a nearby train station, making the reserve accessible via public transport.

A person walking along a dirt track whilst sun beams through the trees and white flowers can been seen in the shrubbery.

Communities connecting with, and taking action for, nature:

Lake Vyrnwy – Wales

Nestled next to the Berwyn Mountains lies Lake Vyrnwy, a man-made reservoir which supplies water to Liverpool. It’s surrounded by a rich array of habitats; ancient woodland, peatland and meadows. Funded by the National Lottery Community Fund, Vibrant Vyrnwy is a partnership project between RSPB Cymru, Llanwddyn Community Council, Hafren Dyfrdwy, and the Lake Vyrnwy Marketing Association. The project is designed to support and develop a vibrant volunteering community in the heart of Wales. We aim to bring people together to celebrate the cultural and natural heritage of the area, through volunteering, wildlife experiences, wellbeing and art events, Lantra training, and an exploration of Vyrnwy’s rich history. Lake Vyrnwy boasts the largest organic farm in England and Wales, and the project’s funding enabled us to launch an exciting new Agricultural Trainee programme in September 2023. The scheme provides training and experience in conservation farming techniques for young people, enabling them to gain valuable skills, while showcasing how nature and farming can work together to benefit people and support rich biodiverse landscape.

A view of Lake Vyrnwy and the stone wall, surrounded by trees and a blue sky with wispy white clouds.

Nature Neighbourhoods – UK wide

The Nature Neighbourhood Project was created in direct response to the calls for action for nature in local communities heard in the People’s Plan for Nature. The RSPB, the National Trust and WWF received £750,000 from The National Lottery Community Fund, the largest community funder in the UK, as well as £300,000 from Co-op to deliver the project. This funding, along with on-the-ground support thanks to Co-op members, will support 18 voluntary and community partners across the UK to mobilise their communities and lead positive change for nature and people through the creation of Nature Neighbourhood Plans. Thanks to National Lottery players, the project will deliver a two-year support programme for partners, financial aid of up to £25,000 per neighbourhood, and support for building collaborations with local authorities.

Open Up with National Lottery Open Week

Now you’ve read all about the work accomplished #ThanksToYou and the National Lottery, why not come and experience it for yourselves? From free guided birdwatching walks to free Explorer backpack hire, our 37 participating nature reserves are offering a range of different experiences for all the family to get closer to nature. Get your ticket or scratch card at the ready, and check out the reserves taking part below: 
Northern Ireland: 
Belfast’s Window on Wildlife 
Black Devon Wetlands 

Loch Leven 

Loch Lomond 


Conwy Nature Reserve 

Newport Wetlands 

Lake Vyrnwy 

South Stack 




Bempton Cliffs 

Blacktoft Sands 

Burton Mere Wetlands 

Dove Stone 


Fairburn Ings 

Fen Drayton 

Flatford Wildlife Garden 

Frampton Marsh 

Ham Wall 


Lakenheath Fen 

Leighton Moss 


Middleton Lakes 


Old Moor 

Pagham Harbour 

Pulborough Brooks 

Rye Meads 


Sandwell Valley 

St Aidan’s 

Strumpshaw Fen 

Titchwell Marsh 

The Lodge

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