The school holidays have begun with the fun-packed Big Blue Splash where 2,200 local people took part in free activities including boat tours, yoga, kayaking, paddleboarding and swimming in Plymouth Sound National Marine Park.

In 2021, Plymouth Sound National Marine Park received a £9.5million Heritage Horizon Award from The National Lottery Heritage Fund. One year on, the impact and benefit of this investment is already being felt across the city, with a summer of community activities taking place.

To mark the occasion, Eilish McGuinness, Chief Executive of the Heritage Fund, visited Plymouth Hoe to celebrate this milestone and the ongoing partnership with the city of Plymouth.

Plymouth Sound is one of the world’s most important and visually stunning natural harbours and is home to protected marine life and seascapes. The city’s relationship with the water is integral to its identity and sense of place as Britain’s Ocean City; it is home to the largest naval base in Western Europe, is a global hub for marine leisure industries and is a historic tourist destination where pioneering voyagers set sail. It was only right that this was the setting for the UKs first Marine Park.

One of the main aims of the project is to encourage greater community engagement with the marine environment and help everyone reconnect with the water. After kicking off last weekend with the Big Blue Splash, the summer fun continues with the National Marine Park visiting green spaces across the city. ‘Sea in the Park’ will take place at Teats Hill (12 August), Keyham (24 August) and West End (27 August).

Councillor Pat Patel, Cabinet Member for Customer Services, Culture, Leisure & Sport at Plymouth City Council, said: “We were thrilled to see so many of our community here in Plymouth engaging with the National Marine Park at the Big Blue Splash weekend. It was the perfect way to celebrate our first anniversary since our Heritage Horizon Award but also a great opportunity to allow everyone to have a chance to shape what our future will look like. We want our future to be guided by the people of Plymouth – to create the people’s ‘Park in the Sea’.”

With the first year under their belts, the impact of the project is already being felt across the city. To date, over 6,000 Plymouth residents have engaged at the National Marine Park events, including the open weekend in April, Mini Splash events and Big Blue Splash event.

Eilish McGuinness, Chief Executive of the Heritage Fund said: “I’m thrilled to be here visiting the National Marine Park one year on. For us to fund a project, particularly at this scale, an essential outcome is that a wider range of people can be involved in heritage, and this has been seen through these fantastic community events. The ‘Park in the Sea’ will re-establish the bond between community and sea that has defined Plymouth for centuries and given its sense of place. Thanks to National Lottery players, the project has already begun to reimagine how this landscape and its people can work together, with many feeling the benefits already. What a fantastic legacy to its first year – I can’t wait to see what the future holds.”

The Heritage Horizon Awards were launched in 2019 to support ambitious, innovative and transformational projects that will revolutionise UK heritage. These awards help to transform lives and economies and put the UK at the lead of major environmental, cultural and heritage projects and show confidence in the heritage sector to rebuild and thrive.

The National Lottery Heritage Fund is the UK’s largest funder of heritage projects, with almost £39million awarded to 182 projects in Plymouth since 1994. They support a wide range of projects including historic buildings and monuments; community and cultural heritage; and landscape and nature.

Heritage Fund and NMP team visiting site