The partnership behind Purbecks Heaths, Dorset, described as the UK’s first ‘super national nature reserve’ (NNR), has announced its 20-year plan for the reserve.
The Wild Purbeck Partnership, which includes Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust, Dorset Wildlife Trust, Forestry England, National Trust, Natural England, Rempstone Estate and the RSPB, has entered into a memorandum of understanding and joint management plan for the site.
The management plan will allow the partnership to work at a large landscape scale and use natural and animal processes to maintain this dynamic and ever-changing mix of habitats – a quality long lacking in much of the countryside. British, but vitally important to its wildlife.
Godlingston Heath – seen here with Poole and Bournemouth in the background – is part of the Purbeck Heaths ‘Super National Nature Reserve’ (National Trust Images and John Miller).
In November 2020, the Wild Purbeck Partnership received a grant from the Green Recovery Challenge Fund of £ 549,900. This, with support from the Wytch Farm Landscape and Access Fund, will be used to more than double the land grazed by cattle and ponies.
The project, led by the Dorset AONB team, will create a 1370 ha mosaic of lowland heathland extending to Arne RSPB. It will include the removal of existing internal fences, creation of an external fence, installation of livestock gates and upgrading of roadside parking controls.
This will allow the introduction of pigs of rare breeds alongside cattle and ponies, entrenching the landscape for the first time since the extinction of the wild boar 300 years ago. Grazing by free-range cattle, ponies and pigs will more naturally lead to changes in the heathland environment, improving the micro-habitats on which many rare and endangered species depend and helping to create a more dynamic habitat suite, complex and better connected.
“Functional ecosystems and abundant wildlife are the cornerstones of natural beauty,” commented Dr Phil Sterling, President of Dorset AONB. “The scale at which the Purbeck Heaths NNR partners work makes such a contribution to the Dorset AONB landscape of national significance.”
Purbeck Heaths is the largest area of lowland heathland managed as a single nature reserve in England. Covering 3,331 ha, it includes Studland and the Arne peninsula. By working together, the various partners benefit from each other’s strengths and expertise to recover nature and restore natural processes throughout the reserve.
Rachel Williams, Area Manager Natural England, said: “This is a fantastic example of partners working together to make nature restoration a reality. Purbeck Heaths NNR is an inspiring place for people from all walks of life to enjoy the natural world. thrive and restore natural processes across the landscape, we can reverse the decline of nature. “
Douglas Ryder of the Rempstone Estate added: “We are delighted to be working to help create a landscape that gives space to nature, working together to appropriately manage Purbeck Heaths using proven farming methods, such as the grazing with native cattle, to improve habitat. and species recovery is extremely important. “