Our Bright Future: the green-fingered £33m National Lottery initiative changing the face of Lancashire

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Ensconced in a quiet corner of the town is the North Blackpool Pond Trail, a welcoming corridor of nature in the midst of the urban sprawl.

And, while it may look unassuming, it’s part of something far bigger. Quite literally: the trail is just one of 31 environmental projects across the UK which together form the Our Bright Future initiative.

A £33m youth empowerment movement involving 128,000 young people, Our Bright Future began in 2016, funded by the National Lottery Community Fund. Seeking to connect people to their natural surroundings, the project has also produced concrete results showing that engaging in a meaningful way with nature has a profoundly positive impact on mental health.

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“Over the course of my time on the pond trail I’ve improved my social skills, communication skills, and work-related skills that will help me in a future career,” says Sam Thomas, who worked on the North Blackpool Pond Trail for four years. “I’ve grown and learnt so much over the past four years and it’s helped me enormously with my current studies at university.

Filming of the Our Bright Future docFilming of the Our Bright Future doc
Filming of the Our Bright Future doc

“I’m always asked what I enjoyed the most [but] I can’t ever really answer as there’s no one thing I enjoyed, there’s just something about doing something good for your community,” adds Sam, who’s studying ecology and conservation at Nottingham Trent University. “To look at all the good you may have done and say ‘I did that’... it’s not happiness, it’s fulfilment.

“No matter what’s thrown your way, you love every second of it simply because you’re doing something so wonderful for the community,” explains Sam, who says he wants to work in conservation in the future. “Another inspiration is how an individual can do so much good through small actions: Imagine if everyone picked up litter when they went for a walk. There’d be no rubbish on the streets.

“We all have the capacity to do good,” continues Sam, with the project as a whole transforming over 3,000 community spaces and creating over 350 new nature-rich areas for people and wildlife to enjoy. “In reality just a little encouragement is needed to persuade us to do good. Our Bright Future is an amazing opportunity.”

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A documentary highlighting the Our Bright Future project’s impact on nature and mental health was also shown at a parliamentary event in October. With the UK grappling with a well-being crisis, it revealed that 95% of participants in the initiative felt their confidence improved and 86% said their mental health improved as a result of the experience.

Sam Thomas, who is heading up the North Blackpool Pond Trail project for Our Bright FutureSam Thomas, who is heading up the North Blackpool Pond Trail project for Our Bright Future
Sam Thomas, who is heading up the North Blackpool Pond Trail project for Our Bright Future

“This report proves just how important it is to give young people practical experience to learn about nature, climate, and wider environmental issues,” explains Craig Bennett, chief executive of The Wildlife Trusts. “Our natural world is the bedrock of our society, but it’s under serious pressure.

“We need to foster a new generation of green leaders to find solutions to the biggest environmental challenges of our time,” he adds. “The success of Our Bright Future shows what can be achieved when people and organisations work together.”