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Charity seeks donors after borrowing £5m to buy nature recovery site

25 Jan 2023 News

Heal Somerset

Heal Rewilding

A rewilding charity with an annual income of around £200,000 has borrowed more than £5m to buy land on which it plans to build a nature reserve and is now fundraising to repay to loan.

Heal Rewilding yesterday announced that it had purchased 460 acres in Somerset as part of its plans to establish a major nature recovery site in every English county by 2050. 

The charity, which registered three years ago, will soon launch a “major public fundraising appeal” to pay back the loans as well as looking for support from major donors.

It is running a scheme whereby people can pay £20 to sponsor a 3m by 3m patch of land at the site, with the charity allocating squares to donors from early spring.

‘We need more people to support us’

The charity aims to address both nature and climate crises and create local jobs at its £5.25m “Heal Somerset” site.

Most of the financial support for the purchase was provided by Direct Line Group and Triodos Bank UK through commercial loan facilities, which were agreed in 2021 and 2022 respectively.

In addition to the loans, the charity will be using a “six-figure land fund” made up of donations from private individuals and companies. 

“To enable the charity to respond at speed to the biodiversity and climate emergencies, its approach is to acquire land using affordable lending, which will be paid down as rapidly as possible with mass public land sponsorship, corporate donations and natural capital investment,” the charity said. 

Accounts for the year ending 31 March 2022 shows that Heal Rewilding’s total income increased by 31% last year, from £167,871 to just under £220,000. 

Its primary source of funding is donations, which represent just over half (£114,277) of its total income. 

Jan Stannard, Heal’s co-founder and chair of trustees, said the charity has “worked day and night over two challenging years to secure funding” for the reserve.  
 
“We have had support from thousands of people and more than 20 businesses, who believed in us when all we had was a vision for what could be achieved,” she said.

“This is the news they’ve all been waiting for and we’re so grateful for their trust and backing. Now we need many more people to support us so that we can achieve our bigger goals.”

‘Many years for nature to recover’

The reserve will serve as a blueprint for the 48 other sites the charity intends to open in the country by 2050, which will cover nearly 25,000 acres.

Projects, which could include areas for food growing among other things, will be co-designed and delivered with the local community. They will be eco-friendly and ensure the greatest diversity of plant and animal species. 

The charity said it will restore and renovate the traditional stone farm buildings located on site as well as seeking permission to receive a number of annual visitors.

“Nature will only recover if it has more space to thrive and we join a growing number of landowners across the UK who are making that happen. The potential for nature to bounce back at Heal Somerset is huge,” said Stannard.
 
“The process of rewilding has already begun and though it will take many years for nature to recover, we expect to see positive changes immediately, first small and then more visible within a couple of years.”

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