Thames Water and Backyard Nature launch new funding to improve access to nature and inclusion for communities in London

Thames Water and the Backyard Nature campaign have launched a £60,000 fund for grassroots community organisations looking for grants to run nature activities.

The first round is open for applications until 8th March 2022 for an initial distribution of £12,000 forming part of a wider two year programme awarding £163,000 by Thames Water.

Backyard Nature is a national campaign to empower children from all backgrounds to access nature and get involved in its care, inspired by the Eco Emeralds, a group of environmental activist school children from Anfield in Liverpool. Backyard Nature is powered by the ethos that all children, no matter their background or experience, can protect nature. This is achieved by offering accessible resources and opportunities to children to foster positive and meaningful engagement with conservation.

The partnership will work with communities across the Thames Water service area who have limited access to gardens and parks and are not appropriately represented or engaged in environmental issues such as conservation and climate change.

The Thames Water funding will be provided over two years through grants to grassroot groups. These will be used to develop inclusive nature-based community projects, which will help boost biodiversity and water conservation and empower people to become community champions for nature.

Activities funded by this round of grant funding could include setting up water butts and bird friendly water features in a community garden, creating a welly bank to get kids outside in all weathers, or even running kayak litter picks.

The project aims to improve accessibility and inclusion and to educate and support all children and young people to protect nature wherever they live. It has been found that children from lower income households, and from Black, Asian and other minority ethnic households get out into nature less often than their white and more affluent peers (1).

Meanwhile the pandemic has highlighted the benefits of spending time in nature. According to the People and Nature Survey for England, just over four in ten adults say nature or wildlife (41%) and visiting green and natural spaces (42%) has been even more important to their wellbeing since coronavirus restrictions began (2).

Rosemary Waugh, Head of Corporate Responsibility for Thames Water said: “I’m excited we’re partnering with Backyard Nature, which closely connects with our own aims to protect the environment and invest in the communities we serve. Sadly, not everyone has a garden, nature reserve or waterway on their doorstep or are included in environmental projects and campaigns meaning their views are not represented or heard.

“We know how important access to green spaces and nature is to people’s physical and mental wellbeing. That is why we kept Walthamstow Wetlands open to Londoners during the lockdowns. It also really matters that everyone can learn about and experience nature and engage with issues such as conservation and climate change. We’re proud to be funding this inspiring initiative to create a positive legacy for generations to enjoy.”

Sophie Forge, Campaign Manager for Backyard Nature said: “As our mission is to make nature accessible for all young people, we are particularly hoping to see applications to the fund from diverse groups that are often underrepresented or excluded from nature activities. We would also love to see some projects that are based in areas of deprivation, that find ways to connect with nature in urban settings, or that are led by organisations that are setting up new nature programmes.”

How to apply

From 8th February 2022, grants of £500 to £2,000 are available for community groups to apply for. Groups can apply for funding on ActionFunder. ActionFunder is an online giving tool that allows businesses & foundations to give directly to local community groups & charities around the UK. Community groups that sign up to ActionFunder and are eligible will be matched with the Thames Water Biodiversity Fund. The fund will close on 8th March 2022.

(1) Monitor of Engagement with the Natural Environment survey, 2018
(2) The People and Nature Survey for England: Monthly indicators for September 2021, 2021

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