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More than £850,000 secured to purchase woodland for environmental charity for its mental wellbeing programmes


The Wilderness Foundation UK is a registered charity delivering environmental, outdoor, social and mental wellbeing programmes at a 40-acre site at Chatham Green, near Chelmsford, Essex, and across selected estates in Scotland. Their mission is to preserve and protect wild spaces and change lives by reconnecting people with nature, educating and inspiring them to commit to caring for our planet. The range of programmes provided by the charity in the UK, and particularly in Essex bring young people and adults into the wild to experience the healing power of nature and rediscover their own resilience and potential to lead full, meaningful lives. The charity supports people who have experienced several challenges including at-risk young people with emotional and behavioural needs, survivors of domestic abuse, and adults and young people recovering from adverse childhood experiences.

The charity’s current woodland site is not big enough for it to deliver all its programmes. To enable it to support more people, the charity has for several years, leased a site, Mann Wood, a 95 acre ancient semi natural woodland in Essex. However the vision was to purchase Mann Wood and to sensitively, and in an environmentally friendly way, develop an eco-hub which would be used for wellbeing programmes. Owning the site would provide the charity with the opportunity to protect the wood from further development and to stimulate biodiversity through sympathetic management combining traditional methods with non-intervention plots. 

Opportunity of a lifetime

The Wilderness Foundation UK was given a time limited opportunity to purchase Mann Wood which would enable it to ensure that key areas of wildlife and green space remain protected for generations to come. Mann Wood would be a critical base to allow the charity to expand its social intervention and environmental education programmes, enabling more people with mental health challenges to experience the healing power of nature and in time to become environmental ambassadors supporting the preservation of the woodland through practical work, raising awareness and campaigning. 


Orchard Fundraising was approached by the Wilderness Foundation as they needed to raise £775,000 to purchase Mann Wood. The charity had already submitted an expression of interest application to a large funder but needed support with the second stage application and to secure the remaining funds, which potentially included a third party payment needed to release the funder’s grant. 

Orchard Fundraising met with the management team and trustees, reviewed the charity’s business plan, discussed its work and its proposed strategy to raise urgently needed capital purchase funds, and future income streams.  Based on this, Orchard Fundraising developed a major gift strategy focussed on trusts and foundations and individuals to raise funds, initially for the purchase of the woodland, but with consideration for the ongoing development of the site and delivery of future activities. 

Utilising the experience of Orchard Fundraising’s consultant in fundraising for environmental projects, a case for support was developed focusing on the biodiversity need and the multiple educational and social benefits that activities at the woodland would bring.  Initial High Net Worth Individual (HNWI) research was conducted and an adaptable brochure drafted, ready to be tailored for approaches to supporters depending on their specific areas of interest and motivation.  


£775K from the major funder - Orchard Fundraising supported the charity in developing the vital second stage application to a major funder. For any valuable, highly competitive grant stream, it is imperative to maintain a focus on the funder's requirements and not stray away along project pathways that, while worthwhile, may not address the criteria and outcomes needed. The consultant provided advice and support that enabled the Wilderness Foundation to do this, and ensured that responses to application questions, and indeed the supporting film, were appropriate and impactful. The application was a success: the charity was awarded £775K towards the cost of the purchase of the woodland. 

£152.5K from two funders in a limited time period - Concurrently to securing the grant from the lead donor, Orchard Fundraising identified, researched and approached other trust and foundation prospects for the likely remaining capital cost. The consultant, using her experience,  selected the most appropriate funders, made advocacy approaches, then developed and submitted two applications. Both were successful, securing £77.5K from one  funder which resulted in the release of the larger grant, and £75K from another in under six months. 

Looking to the Future

Additional research and work on potentially supportive trusts and foundations and likely HNWIs is in place to support a phased approach towards the future care and development of Mann Wood and delivery of the Wilderness Foundation’s activities. Orchard Fundraising is excited to be continuing its relationship with The Wilderness Foundation beyond the successful capital campaign for the woodland purchase. 


Jo Roberts, CEO of The Wilderness Foundation comments: “We were very pleased with the results achieved by Orchard Fundraising. They came in when we had already started the fundraising process but provided invaluable counsel, advice and practical support. They really understood us, our mission and had exceptional knowledge of the environmental fundraising landscape. This gave us the confidence that we  had the right strategy and would help us achieve our goals, both for the purchase of Mann Wood and for future work.  We are delighted with the results they achieved in a short timeframe.


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