A NEW £1 million project to celebrate Solent and Isle of Wight marine heritage has been granted by the National Lottery.

Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust is set to develop a landmark five-year project celebrating the Solent and South Wight’s marine heritage, thanks to support from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The grant for the Secrets of the Solent project could unlock a five-year £1million investment in inspiring local people to get involved in protecting the unique habitats and heritage within our local Marine Protected Areas - effectively national parks of the sea.

As well as being an incredible example of the UK’s marine wildlife - home to internationally-important seagrass beds, chalk reefs, and rocky sponge gardens - our local seas are also busy shipping routes, are highly valued as a source of building materials, support a small fishing industry, and are popular with recreational users.

Tim Ferrero, head of marine conservation at Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, said: “The Solent is packed with nationally and internationally important wildlife - yet many people don’t realise that we have everything from seals to seahorses living so nearby.

“With Secrets of the Solent, we want to celebrate the diversity of our local marine wildlife and habitats to ensure that their importance and the benefits they bring us is understood and valued.

“We all use and benefit from our seas in different ways, so it’s only right that we work together to come up with ways of protecting them and securing those benefits - now and for future generations.”

Heritage Lottery Fund grant applications are assessed in two rounds - the first year will see the proposals refined and developed, with further funding earmarked for future years.

Find out more at hiwwt.org.uk.