Guardians of the Deep project is a partnership between Kent Wildlife Trust, Thanet District Council, Medway Swale Estuary Partnership and Kent County Council.
It aims to involve local people in the protection and monitoring of Kent’s coastal wildlife, and to get young people excited about marine wildlife through a programme of snorkelling activities and practical learning opportunities at coastal sites around the county.
Initial development funding of £64,000 has been awarded to help Kent Wildlife Trust progress their plans to apply for the full grant at a later date.
The project will offer local people training in marine wildlife identification and survey techniques and the chance to play an active role in safeguarding Kent’s natural coastal heritage.
Schools will be able to get involved in a programme of free activities at coastal sites focussing on the value of the marine environment for people and wildlife. Individuals and families can get involved in a range of marine events across the county.
Much of the Kent coast falls within a Marine Protected Area, with features like Thanet’s chalk reefs being of European significance, making the Kent coast of outstanding importance both within the UK and internationally.
Beneath the waves it is home to a diverse array of habitats and species including the tiny and very rare stalked jellyfish, beautifully coloured sea anemones and the industrious, reef-creating, rossworm, that creates a home for a whole range of species.
Above the waves, large numbers of birds overwinter at Pegwell Bay and seals haul out on the sandbanks offshore from Margate.
Bryony Chapman, Marine Policy Officer at Kent Wildlife Trust said: “We’re delighted that the Heritage Lottery Fund has given us this support. Kent’s natural coastal heritage is such a valuable resource it’s fantastic that we have this opportunity to involve local people in its promotion and protection.”
Explaining the importance of the HLF support, Stuart McLeod, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund South East, said: “We are delighted that, thanks to National Lottery players, we are able to offer Kent Wildlife Trust a development grant to get their plans under way.
"Kent’s marine environment includes a fascinating array of species and habitats, and we are pleased to be able to help get local people excited about their coastal heritage.”