Work is underway at Earnse Bay on Walney Island to build a deeper bond between the community and our natural heritage.

The Environment & Arts Resource for Neighbourhood, for Schools, for Everyone, (Earnse) is a partnership between Natural England, Cumbria Wildlife Trust, Westmorland and Furness Council, and Art Gene. The project aims to provide a platform for everyone to explore the wonders of their local coastline through ‘pathways to nature’.

Known as the Earnse Project, the scheme includes creating opportunities to help people increase their own feeling of nature connectedness through ‘pathways to nature’ – activities that engage senses, emotions, appreciation of beauty, and create personal meaning.

The project aims to provide a platform for everyone to explore the wonders of nature on their doorstep. By hosting and promoting recreational activities, including art-based workshops, it is hoped that the community can celebrate and connect with their local habitat around the bay, and with the creatures that have made this stretch of coastline their home.

Plans, including the building of a community space as well as the development of the site – which is due to open in 2026 – are currently being finalised by Westmorland and Furness Council. A number of taster activities are set to take place there throughout the summer.

Earnse Bay will be one of four sites developed within the Community Hubs project, which is part of the Brilliant Barrow programme – an ambitious initiative that aims to ensure Barrow thrives as a great place to live, work, and visit now and into the future. Other key locations include Ormsgill, Barrow Island, and Barrow Town Centre. Brilliant Barrow secured £25 million in regeneration funding from the Government’s Towns Fund for seven projects across the town.

In the meantime, the Earnse Project will enter into a one-year development phase, funded by a grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF), which will focus on long-term project planning with the local community. This includes curating activities that will ignite their passion for the natural wonders at Earnse Bay and help them feel closer to nature.

Deputy Director of Natural England for Cumbria, Helen Kirkby said:

“Our vision at Natural England, is of thriving nature for people and planet. Our aim is for everyone to be able to enjoy nature’s benefits and act for the environment, wherever they live.

“The Earnse Project embodies this goal by growing a deeper connection between communities and their natural heritage.

“Together with our partners, we will make sure the people of Barrow can experience and cherish the beauty of Earnse Bay and its incredible wildlife. The Earnse Project vision is one where nature and community thrive in harmony, and we are looking forward to this exciting journey of discovery.”

Yolanda Aze, Cumbria Wildlife Trust’s Community Engagement Officer for The Bay said:

“This is a fantastic development for Barrow. Earnse Bay and the surrounding area have incredible wildlife and this project will work alongside people in Barrow, discovering the amazing nature in the area while also taking action to protect the natural environment.”

Maddi Nicholson, Director of Art Gene said:

“We’re delighted to be the creative partner on this project. In shaping the Earnse Project with local people and partners, the Art Gene team hope we can create a place to be proud of, an asset that will be valued long into the future.”

Councillor Virginia Taylor, Cabinet Member for Sustainable Communities and Localities, said:

“The Earnse Project – one of four linked hubs being developed through the Brilliant Barrow Town Deal – is a wonderful opportunity to provide access to open spaces, nature and education.

“The collective strength of this collaboration between Westmorland and Furness Council, Natural England, Cumbria Wildlife Trust and Art Gene means there is potential to create something long-lasting and worthwhile. Once the site has been developed everyone will be able to visit, enjoy great activities and connect with nature in this very special place.”

Cumbria Wildlife Trust works with communities to transform unloved and underused spaces into places that bring life and colour into towns and villages. The charity has created a survey to find out from local people about the places around Barrow which could do with a little tender loving care or be transformed for the benefit of people and wildlife. The suggested places will be considered for the Earnse Project. To have your say visit: A Wilder Barrow

If you would like to receive an e-newsletter about the Earnse Project, please register your interest using the sign-up form at:


Thriving Together: Nature and Community

The Earnse Project is a collaboration led by Natural England, in partnership with Cumbria Wildlife Trust, Westmorland and Furness Council, and Art Gene. Together, we are dedicated to connecting people with nature.

This project comes to life with a one-year development phase grant from the NLHF, with work having commenced in late 2023. This development phase will focus on planning a longer-term project with local communities, listening to their ideas and co-curating the activities that will ignite their passion for the natural wonders at Earnse Bay.

A Haven for Wildlife and Nature Enthusiasts

Stretching from the North Walney National Nature Reserve (NNR) to Earnse Bay and down to the Wildlife Trust’s South Walney Reserve, the local coastline is a haven for wildlife. It encompasses nationally rare and significant habitats, including sand dunes, dune heath, intertidal mud flats, and salt marsh. Despite its proximity to industrial landscapes, Walney Island is an important nesting area and stopping off point for important bird species, from wildfowl to waders, and home to the nationally endangered natterjack toad.

Empowering Communities: Five Key Aspects of The Earnse Project.

There are five strands of activity planned for the longer-term, all of which will be tested during the development year:

  1. The Bay: Green Social Prescribing

Getting close to nature is good for you! A dedicated team will provide targeted group sessions and offer drop-in and digital resources to engage a wider audience.

  1. Learning Naturally: Environmental Education

School children and youth groups will get hands-on experiences with nature, and young Coastal Ambassadors will encourage their peers to connect with nature.

  1. Community Spaces and Places

An increased number of green spaces in Barrow town, and the creation of a ‘wild’ garden on the Earnse Project site aim to enhance the community’s connection with nature.

  1. Nature Counts: Volunteering and Citizen Science

A wide range of volunteering opportunities, from practical work on reserves to citizen science initiatives, will be available. Bird Ambassadors will help reduce bird disturbance, and training will offer upskilling opportunities for future employment.

  1. Creative Collisions: Art Activities and Events

Artists in residence will collaborate with the community and conservationists to inspire and create engagement. Exciting site-specific creations and events will broaden the audience for the project.

The Earnse Project is being developed in parallel with the construction of a new building that will serve as the epicentre. This will include a ‘beach school’ area, a classroom/meeting room and National Nature Reserve amenities for volunteers and Natural England staff.

Your Input Matters: Join Us in Shaping The Earnse Project

The success of this project hinges on the active participation of the community it serves. We invite everyone to share ideas and suggestions, telling us what activities would inspire you and your family to visit Earnse Bay. We’ll be out and about in the area again soon seeking your views.

As we embark on this exciting journey, we are committed to addressing any barriers to enjoying, engaging with, and connecting with the natural environment. Talk to us about how we can make access to the beach and to learning about nature easier.

For inquiries and additional information, please contact:

About the Earnse Project

The Environment & Arts Resource for Neighbourhood, for Schools, for Everyone (Earnse) project is dedicated to connecting people with nature at Earnse Bay, in Barrow, Cumbria. This partnership project, led by Natural England in collaboration with Cumbria Wildlife Trust, Westmorland and Furness Council, and Art Gene, aims to create a thriving community where people and nature prosper together. The Earnse Project has received generous funding from The National Lottery Heritage Fund.

About the National Lottery Heritage Fund

We are the largest funder of UK heritage. We believe in the power of heritage to ignite the imagination, offer joy and inspiration, and to build pride in place and connection to the past.

We invest money raised by National Lottery players across the UK, in collaboration with a wide range of statutory bodies, as well as other National Lottery distributors. Our work is made possible thanks to the support of National Lottery players.

As The National Lottery Heritage Fund, we distribute National Lottery grants from £3,000 to £10 million and over, funding projects that sustain and transform the UK’s heritage.

As The Heritage Fund, we distribute funding on behalf of the UK and devolved governments to heritage organisations.

We provide leadership and support across the heritage sector, and advocate for the value of heritage. Since we were established in 1994, we have awarded £8.8billion of National Lottery and other funding to more than 51,000 projects across the UK.

About Natural England

Natural England is the government’s adviser for the natural environment in England, helping to protect England’s nature and landscapes for people to enjoy and for the services they provide.

Within England, Natural England is responsible for:

  • promoting nature conservation and protecting biodiversity
  • conserving and enhancing the landscape
  • securing the provision and improvement of facilities for the study, understanding and enjoyment of the natural environment
  • promoting access to the countryside and open spaces and encouraging open-air recreation
  • contributing in other ways to social and economic well-being through management of the natural environment.

Find out more on  Natural England’s website  and follow us on X: @NECumbria.

About Art Gene

Art Gene is Barrow’s visual arts charity. Established for over 20 years, Art Gene engages local communities in the re-visioning of the social, natural and built environment of Barrow-in-Furness and across the North West.

Artist-led by Maddi Nicholson and Stuart Bastik, the company has developed an extensive portfolio of creative projects concerned with climate change, biodiversity and sustainability.

Art Gene will be leading the ‘Creative Collisions’ strand of the Earnse Project.

About Cumbria Wildlife Trust

Cumbria Wildlife Trust cares passionately about wildlife and wild places – we’re here to put wildlife back into our land and seascapes to make Cumbria a wilder county with more space for nature. We restore and connect wild places, work with nature to tackle the climate emergency and support people to take local action for wildlife.

With a dedicated team of skilled and professional staff working closely with volunteers, partners and thousands of supporters, together we’re creating a wilder future for Cumbria.

We are part of a UK-wide grassroots movement made up of 46 individual Wildlife Trusts who all believe that we need nature and nature needs us. Find out how at: Cumbria Wildlife Trust

About Brilliant Barrow

In 2020, Barrow was one of 101 towns selected to submit a proposal for up to £25m of funding from the Government’s £3.6bn Towns Fund.

The bid was successful, and Barrow became one of the first towns in the country to secure the maximum possible grant to enable seven exciting projects to be delivered.

Now, work is underway to deliver each of the projects to ensure Barrow thrives as a great place to live, work and visit for generations to come.

Our mission is to build on our economic strengths, rich industrial heritage, natural beauty and sense of community to develop a town that is economically dynamic and diverse, sitting at the forefront of innovation and green growth, viewed as a great place to live, study, work and visit and home to a healthy population that can deliver a prosperous, inclusive and fair future To learn more about our projects, visit: Brilliant Barrow – The Future of Barrow is Bright.


© Art Gene
Tel: +44 (0)1229 825085

Art Gene

Bath Street,


Cumbria, LA14 5TY England, UK

Donate here

Privacy Policy | Terms and Conditions

Registered Charity: 1135536

Registered in England: 4359454

All images, artwork and text on this website are protected by copyright and may not be downloaded or otherwise reproduced or distributed without the permission of Art Gene. © Art Gene associates, artists and partners, 2022.