The Natural History Museum has set plans in place to transform its five acres of gardens to help people all over the country to re-engage with the natural world and urban biodiversity, with its new Urban Nature Project turning the gardens into a biodiversity hub and helping to kickstart an urban nature movement with a learning programme for young people, families and schools.

The project itself is set to be completed in 2023, with the South Kensington Gardens due to be transformed into a fully accessible green space right in the middle of the city. The idea is that it will protect and increase the biodiversity already in evidence… in just a single acre, you can find examples of hedgerow, reedbed, fen, heath, aquatic, grassland, scrub habitat and more.

Over the years, approximately 3,400 species have been recorded in the Wildlife Garden, some of them for the very first time. Every year, three greyface Dartmoor sheep come down in August to help manage the garden in a sustainable way.

Once it’s finished, the gardens will see people taken on a journey through a changing world, exploring the diversity of life on earth. There will even be a newly commissioned cast of Dippy, the iconic diplodocus, which is currently Rochdale, although because of the current pandemic situation the dinosaur tour has been suspended for the near future.

The west gardens, meanwhile, will serve as a model for urban nature, showcasing the different habitats and diversity that can be found in urban spaces all over the UK.

A living lab will also be established, where members of the general public, volunteers and scientists can explore the changes taking place in urban nature, sharing the research across a network of national partners.

Clare Matterson, executive director of engagement with the museum, said the hope is that the project will not only drive people to re-engage with nature that can be found right on their doorstep to help reverse the decline of nature in urban areas.

“At a time when people are required to stay inside, the nature on our doorsteps takes on ever greater appreciation and importance. But it is under threat like never before; we have suffered decades of decline in the abundance and distribution of many UK species, and in urban areas especially, we urgently need to learn more about how to mitigate pressing environmental challenges such as climate change and biodiversity loss.

“By 2030, nine out of ten of us will live in urban areas, meaning nature is quite literally backed into a corner as concrete cities expand,” she went on to say.

Learning and volunteer programmes are also going to be part of the project to give people the chance to learn the necessary skills to engage with and protect urban nature.

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