Environmental charity, Hands of Hope, are celebrating today after their project to improve the health and wellbeing of people and planet was given the green light after securing funding from The National Lottery Community Fund and The National Lottery Heritage Fund.
Hands of Hope is a community charity that was set up in 2016 to deliver programmes and activities aimed at tackling rural isolation, loneliness, and food poverty. As well as this, they look to improve the physical and mental wellbeing of communities throughout Rother, Hastings, and west Kent by connecting them with nature and each other. Currently preserving Hope Farm Community Garden – a 22-acre AONB site with Soil Association Accreditation in Hawkhurst, located on the Kent and East Sussex Border – which is home to an Edwardian walled market garden, a heritage orchard, a small gill wood and two large wildflower meadows.
Thanks to National Lottery players, Hands of Hope have been awarded a £165,000 grant by the Heritage Fund to deliver “The Living History Programme” a 2-year project that will engage with communities to uncover the hidden, but vibrant, natural, cultural and community heritage of Hope Farm Community Garden. Alongside this, £248,000 from The National Lottery Community Fund – the largest funder of community activity in the UK – will provide 3-years core funding to enable more people to access the benefits of growing, cooking, and connecting to nature.
The funding will:
- Create employment opportunities supporting three new roles
- Reconnect communities to nature and each other so they can better understand, learn about, and appreciate their local heritage
- Increase the skills base amongst people by providing access to and training in organic food growing, environmental heritage & nature-based activities, heritage rural crafts and nutrition and cooking
- Enable people to grow their own food and eat seasonally and locally, sharing their surplus and therefore reducing food waste whilst tackling food poverty
- Improve accessibility to the site’s natural assets, ensuring everyone is included
- Restore, maintain, and promote the natural, rural and community heritage of Hope Farm Community Garden, for future generations
The CPRE report 2021: Beauty Betrayed – the state of our AONBs cites those in the south east of England are under considerable and growing pressure from large scale housing development. Additionally, only 3% of Britain’s ancient meadows remain and Hope Farm Community Garden is unique, being home to two impressive wildflower meadows, providing an ecosystem that is fast disappearing as well as supporting a huge range of wildlife. The State of Nature 2019 (RSPB) report highlights the urgency of impacts of changes in agriculture, pollution, and climate in the last 50 years on our biodiversity and concludes that without conservation and action at a local level, our natural heritage will continue to erode until it is lost forever.
James Doran, Founder and Chair of Hands of Hope, said: “We are absolutely thrilled to receive this funding support thanks to National Lottery players. This is affirmation that our work is truly making a difference. By the end of the funding period, we will have transformed Hope Farm Community Garden into a beacon of how heritage, nature and horticulture can work together to create stronger, healthier, and better-informed communities who are more connected to the places where they live and to each other.”
Helen Bushell, Senior Head of Regional Funding for London, the South East and East of England at The National Lottery Community Fund, said: “We are proud to be supporting Hands of Hope to deliver this vital work, supporting communities to prosper and thrive. Thanks to National Lottery players, this will bring people together, where they can learn new skills and connect with nature, whilst reducing food waste and benefiting the environment.”
Stuart McLeod, Director England – London & South at The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “Landscapes and nature form the bedrock of our culture and heritage, improving wellbeing, sparking curiosity, and protecting and providing for the community’s surrounding and inhabiting them. National Lottery players have highlighted natural heritage as especially important, which is why we are proud to award Hands of Hope a grant to reconnect the community to nature and showcase the importance of nature for health and wellbeing, all set within their unique landscape.”