Redbridge Council has won £4.2 million in funding for Hainault Country Park.

The funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) will be used to back the authority’s ‘Hainault Ancient Forest – a landscape for the future’ – which plans to restore the country park and protect it into the future.

The scheme will include training opportunities for Redbridge residents and aims to enhance people’s experience of the area.

Restoring the park will work to protect a number of species, including the rare Barbastelle bat spotted there in 2017; the first time it had been seen in London for 50 years.

The council and its partners will also invest an extra £1.5m into the project, bringing the total investment in the area to £5.7 million.

Cllr Jas Athwal, council leader, said: “This is fantastic news for Hainault and for the whole of Redbridge. Hainault Forest Country Park is one of our iconic parks and this generous funding will enable us to upgrade the space and protect the park for many generations to come.

“I want to thank the many people involved in winning this funding, especially our three Hainault Councillors, Cllr Roy Emmett, Cllr Mark Santos, and Cllr Joe Hehir – without their hard work this would not have been possible.”

Covering 800 acres, Hainault Forest includes 250 acres of greenbelt, ancient woodland and a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). It is the last fragment of a medieval Royal hunting forest established by Henry I that included Hatfield and Epping.

The new plans will see investment into the SSSI, landscape and buildings, improvements to the existing children’s zoo and expanding the range of activities on offer.

A total of 158 species of bird have been recorded in the forest and more than 940 species of invertebrates such as butterflies and dragon flies have also been found.

Andy Donald, chief executive of Redbridge Council, added: “This is fantastic news and represents years of tireless work. We greatly appreciate this support from The National Lottery Heritage Fund and look forward to preserving the legacy of Hainault Forest for a long time to come.

"The investment will allow us to more effectively protect habitats and species that are currently in decline.  It will also offer much more to visitors who will be able to enjoy the historic buildings and popular farm.  It’s a very exciting project that draws its inspiration from the rich history of the forest.”