The National Lottery Heritage Fund has awarded £4.2 million to Redbridge Council to restore the forest to its former natural and wild state and help threatened species thrive, including eleven species of bat.
Among them, the rare Barbastelle bat which was spotted there in 2017, the first time it had been seen in London for 50 years, with further recordings in 2019.
The sighting proved just how important Hainault is for wildlife. Surrounded by rapidly increasing and diverse communities it is also a vital green space, with 500,000 visits projected to the Forest every year.
However, its habitats and species are in decline, its historic buildings are at risk of dereliction and the connection to the forest is being lost.
Martin Solder, Chair of Vision Board of Trustees, said:
“As Chairman of Vision – Redbridge Culture & Leisure, I am delighted that Redbridge has been successful in its application to The National Lottery Heritage Fund to secure £4.247m to restore Hainault Forest. It is a site with so much potential as a regional visitor attraction but also not forgetting the heritage and health value for those that live in the borough. With a growing population, the value of open space is of primarily importance and this investment will create a lasting legacy for the site and future generations.”
People from the community will play a central role in restoring their forest to its former wild glory.
Apprentices, trainees and volunteers will develop qualifications and skills in everything from forestry and orchard management to catering and horticulture. Woodland Trust, Capel Manor College, London Wildlife Trust, Greenspace Information for Greater London (GiGL), London and Essex Bat Groups and the Orchard Project will provide training on caring for veteran trees and woods, species-identification and ecological survey techniques.
Workshops, events and celebrations for people of all ages will also help to create a connection and sense of pride and ownership for the forest.
Three currently derelict historic listed barns will be restored with space for community, education and commercial events. Families will be able to use The Main Barn to play and discover the stories of the forest and farm.
Foxburrow’s Farm will get a major upgrade and animals telling the story of the site’s natural history will be introduced including black fallow deer, dormice and a rabbit warren.
Some of the species the project will help survive and thrive are:
- Eleven species of bat, including rare Barbastelle
- Barn, Tawny and Little owls
- Great crested newts
- Veteran trees, including hornbeam and oak
- Fallow deer
- Marsh sow thistles
- Common toads
- Stag beetles