A wildlife charity has received a huge funding boost to help the public learn more about natural heritage.

The Heritage Lottery Fund has awarded a development grant of £34,000 to the RSPB for a project to look at new ways of getting people involved with nature that will ensure our natural heritage is better protected, better understood and more relevant to communities.

The funding is an initial grant to help develop the project and apply for a full grant of £577,800.

The project will be based at the charity’s flagship nature reserve at RSPB Arne on the western edge of Poole Harbour. The reserve in 2017 was home to the BBC’s Autumnwatch and Winterwatch programmes.

Rob Farrington, RSPB manager for the project, said: “We’re all really delighted to be able to have the opportunity to develop new ways of helping people connect to nature, whatever their background, and demonstrating the benefits this brings. For instance, we’re looking forward to working closely with partners to get a better idea of how we can use the natural world to improve people’s health and wellbeing, enrich the experience of young families and better engage with young adults to save nature.”

The bid is also helping to secure a new piece of land at Hyde’s Heath on the Arne peninsula for the RSPB, building on a very successful recent public appeal.

Mr Farrington added: “Hyde’s Heath is an amazing place. The site borders Poole Harbour and is a site we are looking to restore to heathland for the benefit of the many rare and special plants and animals that live on Arne peninsula.”

The work is part of the RSPB’s ambitious plans to help reverse the decrease in the public’s connection to nature.

Mr Farrington added: “People are becoming increasingly disconnected from nature. While programmes such as Blue Planet have huge viewer numbers, we are seeing fewer and fewer people getting out and actually experiencing wildlife for themselves. We want to provide ways of helping people make that first step back into nature.”

A spokesman for HLF said: “Thanks to National Lottery players, we invest money to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about - from the archaeology under our feet to the historic parks and buildings we love, from precious memories and collections to rare wildlife.”