Wilder Connections

The Doddington estate is 6 miles from Lincoln and at its centre stands Doddington Hall. Historically Doddington was a little visited historic house and a conventional farm with minimal public access from a small number of footpaths and bridleways. Since 2007 it has vigorously diversified with accommodation, shops, cafes, weddings, events, new permissive access trails; now employing 120 people, attracting 250,000+ visits a year, and 60,000+ online audience. Covid saw even more visitors walking/cycling on the estate. 

The 770 hectare Doddington estate of woods and farmland is on marginal land and struggled to break even in the face increasing costs, extreme weather events and tapering subsidy. Inspired by projects like Knepp Wildlands and Wild Ken Hill, the opportunity to play a more positive role in the face of the climate and biodiversity crises was spotted, and in 2021 an estate-wide nature recovery/rewilding project, Wilder Doddington, began supported by a Natural England Countryside Stewardship Scheme. It is the largest such scheme in the East Midlands and will become the largest inland nature area in Greater Lincolnshire. 

WILDER CONNECTIONS aims to realise the huge opportunities to build nature-based social and economic benefits on the back of the nature recovery at Wilder Doddington thanks to Doddington’s location, footfall, reputation, experience and networks with local organisations.

The Doddington Hall Conservation Charity (no. 1114539) was founded in 2006.


To conserve, restore, enhance and protect the natural and cultural heritage of Doddington for the long-term benefit of the wider community.

To enable the wider community to benefit from the many opportunities arising from Doddington’s natural and cultural heritage: learning, volunteering, research skills development and wellbeing.


Activities that empower the local community through learning and engagement with Wilder Doddington and activities that bring people-power to Wilder Doddington:

  • Volunteer programme – new volunteers recruited from diverse backgrounds, contributing across all appropriate areas of activity.
  • Programme of school visits with Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust; higher and adult education; and Young Darwin bursaries for less advantaged learners.
  • Partnership with local charity Hill Holt Wood to bring disadvantaged and SEN young learners to gain experience, skills and wellbeing working and learning at Doddington.
  • Partnership with University of Lincoln providing opportunity for HE students and academics to gain field skills and to conduct research projects around Wilder Doddington / Connections activities – environmental, ecological, social, economic.
  • Funded, subsidised Forest School type activities for local disadvantaged families with young children at Wilder Doddington.
  • Implementation of Visitor Engagement Plan providing engaging, inclusive interpretation and activities on site that will help deepen engagement of existing visitor base (250k + visits/year) with Wilder Doddington, and ensure that we attract more diverse audiences.
  • Regular visits to Wilder Doddington by community, mental health and other vulnerable groups.
  • Construction of the ‘Wild House’ a cutting-edge exemplar of sustainable building techniques as a base for Wilder Connections activities. 
  • Creation of new trails, with engaging, inclusive interpretation and citizen science activities. These will increase access for diverse groups for nature-based activity, skills development and learning at the same time as enabling zoning to protect fragile habitats.

Activities to enhance the Countryside Stewardship-funded Wilder Doddington project and ensure its legacy:

  • ‘Wetter Better’ project with the Freshwater Habitat Trust and the River Restoration Centre to enhance Wilder Doddington’s nature recovery by rewetting the previously intensively drained and farmed estate. This is a landscape-scale project which will result in: a regionally important freshwater biodiversity site; increased carbon sequestration and significant (natural) flood- mitigation for Lincoln. Involvement of learners and volunteers throughout programme. 
  • Completion and organisation of baselining of the nature recovery and ecosystem services at WD detailed plans and budgets for ongoing monitoring maximising involvement from volunteers, and learners at all levels 
  • Investigation of opportunities for species introductions, partnership working with other conservation organisations to maximise outcomes. 


Activities to ensure that the project inspires similar projects and builds support amongst funders and policy-makers:

  • Public relations and online engagement to maximise WD’s presence, reach and impact; both with specialist audiences in all areas of activity, and with diverse, inclusive general audiences 
  • Ensuring that we share our model and learning with our networks and partners and specialist audiences via open access data, case-histories, symposia, conferences, using digital, social media and specialist online channels, press and broadcast coverage 

Wilder Connections is designed to build the business models, partnerships and capacity to ensure the long-term impact of Wilder Doddington and its ecological, social and economic outcomes. 

“I was incredibly fortunate to have parents who were passionate about nature. I now see that this gave me an inbuilt sense of connectedness to nature and an appreciation of the interdependence between humans and the natural world. This has been a huge driver in my adult life. The climate and biodiversity crises have arisen in part because the number of those lucky enough to feel such a connection has drastically declined and there is a lack of understanding of the huge range of ecological, economic, and social benefits that nature brings us.

The Wilder Connections project is designed to realise a fantastic opportunity at Doddington to help address this. Thanks to National Lottery players we are going to develop a wide range of projects designed to help people build their understanding of nature, their connection to it, and to benefit from all the health, happiness and resilience it can bring. We want to demonstrate the true value of nature, to influence policy and research, and ultimately to create opportunities for people to play their part in a more sustainable future.”
Claire Birch
Wilder Doddington Project Director

Using money raised by the National Lottery, The National Lottery Heritage Fund inspires, leads and resources the UK’s heritage to create positive and lasting change for people and communities, now and in the future: www.heritagefund.org.uk

Each week, thanks to National Lottery players, £30 million is raised for good causes across the UK.

“We are thrilled to work with Doddington” said Julian Free, Deputy Vice Chancellor at the University of Lincoln. “Wilder Doddington provides an excellent field site for us, and through Wilder Connections we will be able to connect a much wider range of students and staff with this beautiful location and build the knowledge and skills needed for a healthy future for citizens and the planet.”