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13th August 2015

Michaela Strachan “Really wild” for award winning rare bird project

Today (Thursday 13 August 2015) TV presenter Michaela Strachan surprised staff and volunteers at the 360 Observatory wildlife sanctuary in Mid Wales, when she presented them with a National Lottery Award.

The project received 10,246 votes to win the best environment project in this year’s National Lottery Awards - the annual search to find the UK’s favourite Lottery funded projects.

The observatory was the only Welsh project competing against six other projects to win this award. The project will win a £2,000 cash prize, an iconic National Lottery Awards trophy and will attend a star-studded Awards ceremony, The National Lottery Stars, to be broadcast on BBC One on 21 September.

The project sits in the middle of a remote Welsh wetland, on the Cors Dyfi nature reserve near Machynlleth, allowing people to get a unique view of a rich mix of wildlife – in particular the rare ospreys that nest less than 200m away.

Michaela Strachan said:

“This is a project I've always loved; it's connected so many people to ospreys and has been a huge success. It's because of the passion people have here and their commitment, that osprey have successfully bred here in Wales."

"It's a great conservation success story considering that breeding pairs were extinct in the UK by 1916 and have only come back to Montgomeryshire in recent years."

"For me this is a really deserving winner and I'm delighted to present them with their award.”

Emyr Evans, Manager of the project said:

“It’s an honour that over 10,000 people voted to recognise us as the best environment project, and I’m proud we’ve gained this national recognition. Our staff, volunteers, and our many supporters have worked hard for us to win this prestigious award.

“National Lottery funding allowed us to design and build an observatory for everyone, where families can come and ask questions, where teachers and pupils can learn about the environment, where older people can enjoy nature, and where the community can volunteer and welcome visitors - there isn’t a building anywhere in Britain like it.”

Notes to editors

Notes to Editors:

More about the Awards:
National Lottery players raise over £34 million a week and that money goes to support people and projects across the UK. The Awards are a great way to show National Lottery players where their funding has gone and the life-changing difference playing the Lottery every week is making to communities across the UK.

There are seven categories in the Awards, reflecting the main areas of Lottery funding: arts, education, environment, health, heritage, sport, and voluntary/charity.

More about the project:
The 360 Observatory, which is run by Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust, sits in the middle of wetland, allowing people to get a unique view of a rich mix of wildlife – in particular the protected ospreys that nest less than 200m away.

The project used a £1.4 million grant by the Heritage Lottery Fund in 2012 to design and build an unique three-floor observatory overlooking the habitat of many rare plant and animal species. Inside, the site provides hi-tech equipment to take in the 360-degree view, and a state-of-the-art 500m boardwalk enables site access for all, including those with disabilities.

Ospreys are large fish-eating birds of prey which were driven to extinction in most of the UK in the late 19th century. They are now offered full legal protection, as sanctuaries such as this help to re-establish them.

When the observatory opened in 2014, more than 31,000 people visited to catch an eye-level glimpse of birds, insects, reptiles and mammals, including water buffalos that graze by the lake.

Local schoolchildren enjoy learning about ecology and many schools have even incorporated it into their curriculum. Pupils have helped develop conservation plans for the reserve and taken part in workshops on subjects including bird calls, geology, invertebrate identification, otter and nightjar events, dragonfly days and wildlife photography.

The project promotes biodiversity and conservation, with over 500 moth species, 17 species of dragonfly, three newt species, 102 species of plants and amphibians recorded and photographed. More than 100 volunteers work on the site, volunteering over 8,000 hours of their time last year. This has boosted tourism and the local economy, and has also benefited the volunteers. Some older volunteers were isolated before taking part, so helping others at the observatory gives them confidence, purpose and connection.

For more information and images, please contact:
Jackie Aplin at The National Lottery Awards on 07917 791873,, or her colleagues on 02072113991