Norfolk Rivers Trust has received a Green Recovery Challenge Fund grant of £229,200 for Waterlife Recovery East’s ‘Restoring biodiversity: building a mink-free East Anglia’, a partnership project including local charities Norfolk Rivers Trust, Suffolk Wildlife Trust and Countryside Restoration Trust.

Waterlife Recovery East is one of the first environmental projects awarded a grant from the government’s £80 million Green Recovery Challenge Fund. The fund is being delivered by the National Lottery Heritage Fund in partnership with Natural England and the Environment Agency. 

Waterlife Recovery East’s ‘Restoring biodiversity: building a mink-free East Anglia’

The project

American mink Neovison vison
Image by Jan den Ouden
The objective of Waterlife Recovery East project is to restore the biodiversity of East Anglia by eradicating the invasive American mink Neovison vison to save endangered and threatened wildlife. The project will commence in January 2021 and must be completed by March 2022.

Over 95% of Britain’s water voles have been lost in recent decades and in 2018 the species was classified as Endangered in Britain under IUCN Red List criteria. Research has shown that mink are the single most significant cause of this catastrophic decline. The presence of these opportunist hunters is also having considerable impact on other cherished native species such as kingfisher, sand martin and lapwing. Several less well-known amphibians and crustaceans are also threatened.

Dr Simone Bullion of Suffolk Wildlife Trust, overseeing the work carried out in the Suffolk county, states “this fund enables us to take a critical leap forward in helping secure the future of our water voles, which are now one of Britain’s most endangered Mammals.”

Simon Baker, Chair of the Norfolk Mink Project and member of the project Management Group says “It is fantastic news that we have been awarded the Green Recovery Fund award, particularly when there were so many calls on the 'grant pot'.”
Water vole - one of the species that could benefit.
Image by Jonathan Ridley

Prof. Tony Martin, Chair of the Waterlife Recovery East project continues “By allowing us to recruit staff, and buy equipment that will last for many years, the legacy of this award will long outlive its relatively short duration. This provides an excellent foundation for a campaign that is urgently required if our precious native wildlife is to reclaim Britain's countryside. Mink were introduced for fur farming a century ago, and we now have a golden opportunity to clean up the mess left behind by this industry.”

The grant will be used to employ and train three staff to carry out the work – ideally young people at the start of their careers in conservation. Up to 200 citizen conservationist volunteers will also provide assistance, drawn from the various organisations involved and beyond.  Dealing with the threat of invasive species is a rapidly growing field and offers great prospects to those employed or volunteering and adds new people to Britain’s pool of conservation expertise.

Dr Vince Lea, Head of Wildlife Monitoring for the Countryside Restoration Trust, and who will be overseeing the work in Cambridgeshire, said “this grant will be a great boost to enhancing knowledge in invasive species management and train new staff and volunteers to continue this conservation work in the future.”

David Diggens, CEO of Norfolk Rivers Trust said, "We are delighted to be involved in a pioneering project that will enhance the wildlife of waterways across Norfolk and the entire region."

Green Recovery Challenge Fund

Today, the first environmental projects have been awarded a grant from the government’s £80 million Green Recovery Challenge Fund.

  • 68 projects have been awarded grants between £62k and £3.8 million to kick-start a pipeline of nature-based projects while creating and retaining jobs
  • First funding round sees £40 million pot allocated, second round of funding to open in early 2021
  • 21 projects will receive the larger grants (over £250k - £5m) and 47 projects awarded funding for the smaller grants (£50 - £250k)

Defra announced grants between £62,000 and £3.8 million today, to help create and retain thousands of green jobs. The projects, spread across England, will see trees planted - 800,000 in total - and protected landscapes and damaged habitats such as moorlands, wetlands and forests restored, alongside wider conservation work. The projects will also support environmental education and connecting people with green spaces.

The Green Recovery Challenge Fund is a key part of Prime Minister’s 10 Point Plan to kick-start nature recovery and tackle climate change.  The fund is being delivered by the National Lottery Heritage Fund in partnership with Natural England and the Environment Agency.


Countryside Restoration Trust has worked on other projects on the waterways in Cambridgeshire. The CRT formed the Bourn Free Project with the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire Wildlife Trust.