The public are set to step inside the home of the ‘patron saint of conservation’ – Sir Peter Scott – for the first time, thanks to an investment of £4.4m from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) towards a £6m Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT) project.
Sir Peter’s pioneering TV career in the 1950s inspired many broadcasters, including Sir David Attenborough, who commented:
“Peter is and always will be the patron saint of conservation. Long before words like ‘biodiversity’ were coined, Peter looked out from that huge window in his house at Slimbridge and realised our lives are so linked with our natural world that we have to learn to love it and look after it. I think it’s wonderful that absolutely anyone will be able to sit in that same window in future years and feel just as inspired.”
The home of Sir Peter at Slimbridge wetland centre in Gloucestershire was the site of the BBC’s first ever natural history programme which Peter presented live from his studio lounge in May 1953. The house is also a key part of the story of modern conservation – the global system for designating species as threatened, endangered or extinct was largely devised there by Scott as he helped to found the WWT, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the IUCN Species Survival Commission and many other organisations that have stopped many animals from going extinct. HLF’s grant will help renovate the house and enable the public to see the world of fascinating history within it.
The Scott tour will continue out into the grounds, among one of the world’s biggest collection of water birds including species like the Hawaiian goose that Scott saved from extinction. There will be a range of new attractions including: an aviary and theatre; a fabulous new tower hide overlooking the wild nature reserve; access to WWT’s world-renowned conservation breeding duckery; the chance to visit one of WWT’s Tundra research stations – replicated on site and a new creative space for visitors to try their own wildfowl art.
Environment Minister Rory Stewart said:
“The Wildfowl & Wetland Trust do really important work looking after our landscapes and wildlife, and I’m delighted the Heritage Lottery Fund is supporting the Trust to honour the memory of the great Sir Peter Scott.
“Sir Peter changed the way we think about conservation and the new attractions at Slimbridge will bring his legacy to life and continue the truly excellent work already underway to protect our wildlife.”
HLF Trustee Jim Dixon said:
“Sir Peter Scott inspired a generation of conservationists across the world. His studies on the migration of wildfowl made him a firm believer in working across national boundaries for conservation. I can’t think of a more fitting way to use National Lottery players’ money than by marking his global reputation and giving Slimbridge a renewed role to celebrate the work he pioneered and loved.”
HLF has awarded an initial up front £360,000 to help WWT develop plans for the new heritage tour of Slimbridge wetland centre, starting from Scott’s house. In addition to HLF’s £4.4m grant, WWT will need to raise a further £1.6m towards the full £6m project cost.
WWT Chief Executive Martin Spray CBE added:
“We want everyone in the area to feel proud of how important Slimbridge is to wildlife conservation across the world, and to enjoy getting close to wildlife in a beautiful, watery landscape. We’re inviting local people to be part of sharing that pride, and to inspire the young conservationists of tomorrow.”