A brief history


aturenet went fully online on 1 January 1996 after two months of preparation and a few test pages (so, yes, we always claim to have been online since 1995). BBC Wildlife Magazine, 1996
Sample report from BBC Wildlife Magazine, 1996
showing what things were like 'back in the day'.
The original idea was simply to have a few pages of nature conservation information and a big index of places to go in the countryside. Volunteers gathered and typed in the information in the sites index, the body of which was installed by Summer 1996 for England only. After that, we decided to reconfigure the whole thing before doing the rest of the UK. In fact, we never did complete the index as nobody really used it, and the nature conservation and other bits which came along proved to be far more useful. So the index remains incomplete to this day but the other indices have gone from strength to strength - there are now about 300 pages on Naturenet and the number keeps increasing.

Expenses (like new software, server costs when they occur, fixing this poor old PC, and so on) are and always have been paid mostly out of the pockets of the organisers! Naturenet is not affiliated to or representing any of the bodies it catalogues, but is an independent enterprise.

When we first started, getting online was a haphazard affair. Your Naturenet editor discovered that there was an American guy a few villages away who had some sort of internet stuff and something called a BBS (never did find out what that was) in his garage. After a guided tour of the garage and a bit of discussion, this guy agreed that we could dial-up from his system in exchange for some money, thus saving having to make phonecalls at national rates to hugely expensive providers - it usually cost about £25/month in those days, not including national rate call charges. He was one of the first ISPs in the country, I suppose.

Our first website was attached to a home page, at http://www.dungeon,com/~chat. This was satisfactory so long as we remained small, but as interest grew we became too large to remain there. In April 1996 Naturenet was offered a new home by Webscape, and after some experimenting, and much patience by our new hosts, this went live on 25 May 1996 at,uk/naturenet (now no longer in existence). As of 19 August 1997 we were donated our own domain name at, which was generously organised and provided by our frighteningly tolerant hosts, Webscape. From that time onwards things have remained pretty stable and we expect to keep this address for a good long time yet.


During 1996 we built up a hit rate of between 100 and 1000 per week, which is still increasing now. Over 1997 we accumulated about 10,000 hits.


In 1997 Naturenet was awarded the Princes' Award for the Best Audiovisuals on Europe's Environment. We got a trophy, a trip to Copenhagen, and lots of glory (but no money). See here for further details.


June 1998: We were made a very welcome present of a total redesign by Vet Design. The colours changed, and there were a few other changes too, but they're too boring and nerdy to go into here. We've had changes of style since, but many of the Vet Design changes have survived until this day, particularly this font (Verdana) and the white page background. You can see what the old style was like in our old logo in the picture below.
July 1998: New hitcounter from Webtracker, new mailing list from Onelist (which became Egroups and later Yahoo Groups) called Ask The Ranger.
November 1998: We pass 20,000 recorded hits to the front page.


June 2000: We register to stop anyone else snaffling it. there's nothing there, so don't bother going there.

July 2000: We pass 50,000 recorded hits to the front page.

October 2000: Server stats survey from Webscape suggests that our hit counter (which is not based on our own server) is actually underestimating our visitor numbers by a factor of 8.42. If true, this means we've actually passed 500,000 hits.


May 2001: We pass 75,000 recorded hits to the front page.

May 2001: Sponsorship agreement with Countryside Jobs Service.

August 2001: Naturenet is shortlisted for

October 2001: Naturenet is runner up in Community section of Yell Awards, second only to the overall winners, some blokes from Scotland. We get to eat dinner in some distinguished company. See details and photos here.


August 2003: Naturenet begins migration from Frontpage to Dreamweaver. No sign to users (usually) but much frantic nerd-work behind the scenes.


July 2004: we find, by accident, that whoever used to own had forgotten to re-register it! Hooray! We snap it up. The fools - we'd have paid for that.

Sept 2004: We pass 250,000 hits to front page - new server stats suggest that multiplier is still in operation, and thus real hit numbers are in excess of 2 million.


Pinkeye Graphics gives Naturenet a much-needed makeover.