Helping wild spaces stay open
The chance to escape the pressures of urban life by spending time in nature is always important, but during the coronavirus pandemic it has become more vital than ever.
Matt Gooch, the Reserve Site Manager at Carlton Marshes – a 1000-acre reserve not far from the coastal town of Lowestoft in Suffolk – knows this better than anyone.
The 38-year-old said, “We’ve seen a real increase in visitors during the lockdown and we’re still really busy. It’s [the marshes] an important resource for people’s wellbeing.”
In 2019, a £4.1MMillion grant from The National Lottery enabled Suffolk Wildlife Trust to extend the marshes by buying an additional 400 acres of land and begin an extensive habitat transformation project.
Thanks to National Lottery players as well as Suffolk Wildlife Trust members and supporters, marsh land that has been used for farming is being turned back into a vast wetlands teeming with wildlife including otters, water voles, marsh harriers, avocets and redshanks to name just a few.
When the lockdown came into force, the Suffolk Wildlife Trust was determined to keep the marshes open to the more than 70,000 people who live in Lowestoft as well as visitors from further afield.
As Matt points out, the marshes make it easy to isolate yourself.
He said, “The reserve is laid out so people don’t feel they’re on top of each other. You can still lose yourself out in the marshes.”
In an average year, the marshes are visited by about 40,000 people. By the time this extraordinary year is over, the number of visits is certain to surpass that.
Matt said, “In terms of visitor numbers I would compare the lockdown period to a typical summer holiday period.
"We’ve been seeing a lot more families with children as well as people exercising or walking their dog. There will be a big audience that has discovered or rediscovered Carlton Marshes as an important resource on their doorstep.”
Thanks to players of The National Lottery, £30 million pounds is raised for Good Causes every week, funding projects across the UK and helping communities come together.