Lottery millionaires team up to build bird boxes for community wildlife project

Ben Mitchell, PA
·3-min read

A group of National Lottery millionaires have teamed up for a lockdown project to build bird nesting boxes to give a boost to their local wildlife.

Eight lottery winners and their families joined the initiative to create the bespoke boxes, which will be set up at community sites run by Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust’s (HIWWT) Team Wilder.

Lottery winners set up bird boxes
Patrick Morling joined other National Lottery millionaires to build bird nesting boxes during lockdown (James Robinson/Camelot/PA)

Patrick Morling, from Havant, who won £1 million on a scratchcard in 2018, said the project had helped keep him busy after he took early retirement from the paper cup factory where he worked, which was struggling during the pandemic.

The 63-year-old told PA: “Because of the lockdown and there’s not much you can do, particularly the way the weather was, it was a welcome distraction, it kept your mind ticking over rather than sitting around doing nothing.”

Explaining how the lottery had changed his life, he said: “Before the win we looked at what we couldn’t do, now we look at what we can do.

“It’s allowed us the opportunity to look at choices, before the win it was getting up and going to work because of bill-paying, but now I don’t have that worry, everything is settled, money gives you peace of mind.”

£1 million National Lottery scratchcard win
Patrick Morling and his wife Paula, from Havant, Hampshire, after they won £1 million on a National Lottery scratchcard in 2018 (Andrew Matthews/PA)

David Mackie, 38, from Basingstoke, who won £1 million in 2014, said: “It was a challenge to start with, I won’t lie, I’m not fully DIY-creative, but I have two boys who were willing to help me, or laugh at me.”

On his win, Mr Mackie said he had pursued his passion for running and added: “It’s been a pretty whirlwind time, life was improved obviously from the start, it’s given us the opportunity to make life comfortable, it’s taken away a lot of stress.”

David and Sam Mackie from Basingstoke with bird boxes
David and Sam Mackie from Basingstoke are part of a group of National Lottery millionaires who have teamed up for a lockdown project to build bird nesting boxes (James Robinson/Camelot)

Geoff, 69, and Judith Coombes, 67, who won £1 million in 2016, visited the Eco Eling project in their home city of Southampton to help install the nest boxes.

Mr Coombes, who used to be a builder, said: “Like so many people in the past year not able to travel or see friends and family, we’ve been trying to enjoy the simpler things in life, including the birdlife that visits our garden, so we were thrilled to be part of this project. It’s got me out of the house and into the garage.

“It has been a really constructive way to spend some of the darker winter days and now spring is here we’re really hoping that these nest boxes will, in time, provide a safe home to some of our feathered friends and encourage two-legged visitors to the Eco Eling site.”

Mrs Coombes said since winning they had taken many holidays, visiting 22 countries until a cruise had to be cancelled because of the pandemic.

Lottery winners set up bird boxes
National Lottery winners Geoff and Judith Coombes take their homemade bird boxes to Eco Eling in Southampton (James Robinson/Camelot/PA)

Becky Fisher, from HIWWT, said: “While the future residents of these wonderful nest boxes won’t know they were constructed by a multimillionaire taskforce, hopefully some people who don’t usually visit will be intrigued and come along to take a look.

“Nationally, since its launch in 1994 more than £338 million in National Lottery funding has helped support 46 wildlife trusts in the UK to deliver projects for nature’s recovery across all four nations.”