MORE than £156 million of National Lottery funding has been invested in Dorset over the past 25 years, new figures reveal.

Over 2,600 grants have been awarded since 1994 to a wide variety of local projects. The largest grants have been awarded to the Tank Museum in Bovington (£15.8m), to help fund its development over the last 12 years, and Dorset County Museum (£11.8m), including a new extension, due to be completed in 2020, which will house new galleries and allow the museum to display more of its four million artefacts.

Most National Lottery grants, however, are for £10,000 or less. For example, Wimborne Wagtails received £9,140 to train volunteers in swimming teaching and safety qualifications, so they can expand the exercise activities they provide for the local community.

Now any organisation that has received National Lottery funding has the chance to gain nationwide acclaim by entering the 25th Birthday National Lottery Awards. Winners will receive a £10,000 cash prize and national recognition at a ceremony broadcast on BBC One later in the year.

Last year, the South West’s Heritage Ability project, run by the Living Options organisation, won the best Heritage category at the National Lottery Awards. The project is helping 20 heritage destinations in the South West become more accessible to people with disabilities.

In Dorset, the project is working with attractions such as Durlston Country Park in Swanage, Lulworth Cove, RSPB Arne in Wareham and Moors Valley Country Park near Ringwood.

The project team was surprised with the news of their win with a visit from Bridget Jones star Sally Phillips, before being presented with the award trophy by Silent Witness actress Liz Carr at the awards show in London.

With the £5,000 prize money they won at last year’s awards, the Heritage Ability project is funding a new Virtual Heritage Project, which aims to help partner heritage sites to develop and deliver 360º images and films to enhance the accessibility of their sites.

Diana Crump, chief executive officer at Living Options, said: “Winning the best Heritage project at the National Lottery Awards last year really demonstrates that accessibility matters, and it was a fitting tribute to the tireless efforts of all our staff and volunteers who make this project happen.”

“We received local and national media coverage which helped us to highlight the difference we are making to some of the UK’s most treasured attractions. The prize money is also being used to further improve access to heritage sites to make them even more accessible.”

She added: “I hope our story motivates people to nominate projects for the National Lottery Awards because it’s definitely worth it.”

Jonathan Tuchner, from the National Lottery, said: “Since its launch 25 years ago, The National Lottery has helped change lives across Dorset. This tremendous work would not be possible without those who play the National Lottery and those who do extraordinary things with National Lottery funding. They are transforming their community every day of the week, and if you know of one that deserves recognition then please nominate them for a National Lottery Award.”

To enter your favourite project in this year’s National Lottery Awards, complete an entry form at Entries must be received by midnight on April 30, 2019.