Londoners (and visitors) will soon have the chance to "fall in love with nature on their doorsteps," according to Sir David Attenborough as plans for the new outdoor Urban Nature Project get underway at the Natural History Museum in London.
The Natural History Museum announced it has been given the green light to transform its sprawling five-acre garden into an urban wildlife hub that will facilitate research and conservation; as well as raise awareness of the natural world through the eyes of young visitors in particular. "The Urban Nature Project opens the door for young people to fall in love with the nature on their doorsteps and develop a lifelong concern for the world’s wild places," said Sir David Attenborough, as he warned the timing of the project comes at a critical time for nature.
"Species that were a common sight in gardens across the country when I was young, such as hedgehogs, are rarely seen by children today. These declines have devastating consequences for wildlife," he explained. "Unless children have access to nature and experience, understand and nurture wildlife, we know they might never feel connected to nature and could grow up with no interest in protecting the natural world around them."
The project has been years in the making (25 to be exact) and should be ready by 2023. Once complete, the gardens will be fully accessible green spaces where visitors can explore woodland, grassland and all sorts of UK habitat. There will be a dedicated wildlife garden that will act as a haven for native plant, bird, insect and animal species including the mighty Greyface Dartmoor sheep.
A brand-new cast of Dippy, the Natural History Museum’s iconic diplodocus, will keep watch over the east gardens, where plants and fossils reflecting each geological era will tell the story of the planet's history. There are also plans for an outdoor learning center and a "living lab" where scientists, volunteers and the public can share ideas on sustainability, and engage in year-round outdoor nature projects.
"By 2030, nine of out ten of us will live in urban areas, meaning nature is quite literally backed into a corner as concrete cities expand," the museum's executive director of engagement, Clare Matterson said. “We hope the Urban Nature Project will not only galvanize people to reengage with the nature on their doorsteps but building on the Museum’s scientific and public work, we want to trigger a movement that will ultimately help reverse these declines."
If 2023 seems like a long way off, you can keep up-to-date with the project's progress here. Or, in the meantime, explore other incredible outdoor spots in the UK below.