Work begins on Natural England project to connect people with nature at Earnse

A project designed to build a deeper bond between a community and their natural heritage is in development at Earnse Bay on Walney Island.

Known as the Earnse Project, the scheme includes creating opportunities to help people increase their own feeling of nature connectedness through ‘pathways to nature’ – activities that engage senses, emotions, appreciation of beauty, and create personal meaning.

Named after the beautiful sand and shingle found at Earnse Bay, The Environment & Arts Resource for Neighbourhood, for Schools, for Everyone (Earnse), is a partnership between Natural England, Cumbria Wildlife Trust, Westmorland and Furness Council, and local arts charity, Art Gene.

The project aims to provide a platform for everyone to explore the wonders of nature on their doorstep. By hosting and promoting recreational activities, including art-based workshops, it is hoped that the community can celebrate and connect with their local habitat around the bay, and with the creatures that have made this stretch of coastline their home.

Plans, including the building of a community space as well as the development of the site – which is due to open in 2026 – are currently being finalised by Westmorland and Furness Council. A number of taster activities are set to take place there throughout the summer.

Earnse Bay will be one of four sites developed within the Community Hubs project, which is part of the Brilliant Barrow programme – an ambitious initiative that aims to ensure Barrow thrives as a great place to live, work, and visit now and into the future. Other key locations include Ormsgill, Barrow Island, and Barrow Town Centre. Brilliant Barrow secured £25 million in regeneration funding from the Government’s Towns Fund for seven projects across the town.

In the meantime, the Earnse Project will enter into a one-year development phase, funded by a grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF), which will focus on long-term project planning with the local community. This includes curating activities that will ignite their passion for the natural wonders at Earnse Bay and help them feel closer to nature.

Deputy Director of Natural England for Cumbria, Helen Kirkby said: 

“Our vision at Natural England, is of thriving nature for people and planet. Our aim is for everyone to be able to enjoy nature’s benefits and act for the environment, wherever they live.

“The Earnse Project embodies this goal by growing a deeper connection between communities and their natural heritage.

“Together with our partners, we will make sure the people of Barrow can experience and cherish the beauty of Earnse Bay and its incredible wildlife. The Earnse Project vision is one where nature and community thrive in harmony, and we are looking forward to this exciting journey of discovery.”

Yolanda Aze, Cumbria Wildlife Trust’s Community Engagement Officer for The Bay said:

“This is a fantastic development for Barrow. Earnse Bay and the surrounding area have incredible wildlife and this project will work alongside people in Barrow, discovering the amazing nature in the area while also taking action to protect the natural environment.”

Maddi Nicholson, Director of Art Gene said:

“We’re delighted to be the creative partner on this project. In shaping the Earnse Project with local people and partners, the Art Gene team hope we can create a place to be proud of, an asset that will be valued long into the future.”

Councillor Virginia Taylor, Cabinet Member for Sustainable Communities and Localities, said: 

“The Earnse Project – one of four linked hubs being developed through the Brilliant Barrow Town Deal – is a wonderful opportunity to provide access to open spaces, nature and education.

“The collective strength of this collaboration between Westmorland and Furness Council, Natural England, Cumbria Wildlife Trust and Art Gene means there is potential to create something long-lasting and worthwhile. Once the site has been developed everyone will be able to visit, enjoy great activities and connect with nature in this very special place.”

Cumbria Wildlife Trust works with communities to transform unloved and underused spaces into places that bring life and colour into towns and villages. The charity has created a survey to find out from local people about the places around Barrow which could do with a little tender loving care or be transformed for the benefit of people and wildlife. The suggested places will be considered for the Earnse Bay project. To have your say visit: A Wilder Barrow | Cumbria Wildlife Trust

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