MORE than 12,000 schoolchildren have been able to connect with nature and the great outdoors thanks to a National Park grant scheme.

Pupils from across Hampshire and Sussex have been able to enjoy fun nature-based trips after their schools were awarded an Outdoor Learning Grant.

A total of £109,000 of grant funding has been shared between 214 schools over the past two years – one of the highest amounts ever given out since the South Downs National Park was created. This is a five-fold increase from a decade ago.

Activities have included hiking, farm visits, conservation tasks and searching for ‘mini-beasts’.

Hampshire Chronicle: Schoolchildren across the county have been able to explore their national parkSchoolchildren across the county have been able to explore their national park (Image: Anne Purkiss)

READ MORE: Hampshire national parks concerned over consultation on planning rules

The grant subsidises trip costs for state-funded schools and colleges with 10 per cent or more pupils eligible for Free School Meals. The trips are delivered by the South Downs Learning Network, which covers 100 sites and providers, delivering learning to support the curriculum, as well as health and wellbeing benefits.

The grants are overseen and funded by the South Downs National Park Authority, with additional funding from the South Downs National Park Trust, the official charity for the National Park.

Hampshire Chronicle: Butser HillButser Hill (Image: Daniel Greenwood)

The scheme was formerly called the School Travel Grant before being renamed this year. The national park hopes to open applications for the next round of grants in January, subject to further funding.

Amanda Elmes, learning, outreach and volunteer lead for the national park, said: “We’re so pleased to have been able to help thousands of children connect with the great outdoors and explore the South Downs.

“These experiences are so important for general wellbeing and can inspire a lifelong interest in caring for our planet. As families are hit by the cost-of-living crisis, many would not be able to afford these school trips, so this scheme is more important than ever.”

SEE ALSO: Hampshire cyclists sent off by Pope raise £70,000 by riding from Rome to London

Trevor Beattie, chief executive of the South Downs National Park Authority, said: “We will continue to work hard towards our goal of every child being able to visit a national park during their time at primary school.

Hampshire Chronicle: Trevor BeattieTrevor Beattie (Image: South Downs National Park Authority)

“I welcome the introduction of the Natural History GCSE from 2025 and would like to see nature-based field studies incorporated more widely and robustly into the national curriculum.

“With the right resources, national parks can offer tremendous educational opportunities and we are ready to play a greater role in young people’s learning and development.”

This year’s funding for the Outdoor Learning Grant has been made possible by the following donors: The Green Family, Shanly Foundation, Fonthill Foundation, Tallulah Lewis Foundation, John Coates CT, Horsham Natural History Society and The American Express Foundation. The American Express Foundation grant is delivered as part of a wider National Parks UK Partnership.

For more information go to the Outdoor Learning Grant at