Conservationists and volunteers will prematurely age specially selected trees to create homes for thousands of creatures to mark the official launch of a ground-breaking conservation project.

The Back from the Brink project will launch in Windsor Great Park by simulating the exposure to the elements and fungi a tree would expect to see over the course of a century in just one afternoon.

The project which will aim to bring 20 species back from the brink of extinction, has been made possible thanks to £4.6m National Lottery funding, awarded by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

This is the first nationwide coordinated effort to bring a wide range of leading charities and conservation bodies together to save threatened species.

The National Lottery funding will also help a further 200 species that are under threat including the grey long-eared bat, pine marten, willow tit, lesser butterfly orchid and hedgehog.

As part of the project Butterfly Conservation (BC) will lead efforts to reintroduce the Chequered Skipper back to England after the butterfly became extinct in the 1970s.

Elsewhere across England BC plans to protect other threatened butterfly species including the Duke of BurgundyWood WhiteMarsh Fritillary and Large Blue as well as moths including the Liquorice Piercer and Barred Tooth-striped.

BC Chief Executive Julie Williams said: "Back from the Brink is partnership working at its very best, By working together we are making a real difference for species conservation.”

Natural England chairman, Andrew Sells, said: “This project is nothing short of a revolution in conservation. Never before have so many people pledged to work together to save so many of England’s individual plants and animals. It comes not a moment too soon for many important species and draws together a wide range of people and organisations.

“We must thank the players of the National Lottery and our other supporters including the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and People’s Postcode Lottery, whose generosity has presented this great opportunity.”

Marian Spain, CEO of Plantlife and founder member of Rethink Nature said: “We are delighted that the UK’s leading conservation organisations are collaborating as never before. It is by coming together now, to pool skills, knowledge and resources, and with the support of the Garfield Weston Foundation and Patsy Wood Trust, that we  will save some of England’s rarest species from extinction.”

"An alarming number of species are teetering on the brink of extinction and we cannot allow them to fall. Nature has an unequalled power to fascinate us, enthral and inspire and we are redoubling our efforts to protect these precious species for future generations.”

"People are at the heart of this programme and vital to its success. From getting active outdoors to help manage habitats to sharing your species finds on social media, this project promises everybody the chance to renew their connection with nature while putting over 100 species on the road to recovery."

Sir Peter Luff, Chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund, said: “Back from the Brink is a truly groundbreaking project drawing on expertise from multiple agencies and conservation charities.  If all goes to plan, twenty species will be saved from extinction and the prospects of a further two hundred threatened species will be improved – and this is only possible thanks to the money provided by people who play the National Lottery.”

Clara Govier, Head of Charities at People’s Postcode Lottery, said: “We are delighted that our players are helping to support such an important conservation project. It’s a brilliant collaboration and we wish all the project partners every success in their endeavours.”

More than 2,000 UK species depend on our ancient trees. An ancient oak can be centuries old and home to a huge number of invertebrates, mosses and lichens, as well as birds and mammals. England is home to a wealth of ancient trees; a recent survey by the Woodland Trust shows that England has more ancient oaks than the rest of Europe. Worryingly this ancient tree habitat, that is so quintessentially English, is under threat and declining.

This is because of the ‘age gap’; the fact that there aren’t enough younger trees maturing to fill the gap when our existing ancients pass away. This will mean that those species that depend on our deadwood and ancient trees will have no new habitat to move to.

Through Back from the Brink, Buglife’s tree experts have identified a number of trees suitable for veteranisation – trees that, with a little work can take on the unique features of ancients - to ensure a continuation of habitat for the many rare species found in the park such as the Queen’s Executioner Beetle and the Royal Splinter Cranefly.

A team of school children, college students and volunteers from the local community will be planting native trees in Windsor Great Park, trees hopefully destined to become the ancients of the future. Elsewhere on site, experts will be using everything from fungus to pigeon poo to speed up the process of changing a mature tree into an ancient.

Wherever you are in England, you can get involved in bringing species back from the brink, either by taking one of almost 3,000 volunteering opportunities or by donating. The project is live now - to find out how you can take part, find us online at and @naturebftb