ETAG Visit Notes
18th June 2008
Environment Theme Action Group visit to Poor Common and the Dorset Wildlife Trust, Beacon Hill
Matt Reeks, Senior Ranger, East Dorset Countryside Management Service (EDCMS), gave the group a guided tour of Poor Common explaining its history, the restoration work that his team has undertaken and the success of the project both in terms of habitat recreation and as a resource for local residents.
Poor Common has been in EDDC ownership as public open space since 2005 as part of a planning agreement for local development. It is now a 15 ha site of mixed lowland heath, deciduous forest and pine plantation. Improvements funded by Developer Contributions and the Heathland Mitigation Fund include:
• Excavating and refilling the clay ponds and adding a pond dipping platform for use by schools and groups.
• Adding 2 km of all weather surface footpath and bridleway.
• Motorbike proof access points at all entrances.
• Restoration of approx. 1 ha of lowland heath.
Funding from the Heathland Mitigation Fund has also enabled:
• 3 ha of Rhododendron clearance
• a new circular walk and horse route
Now used as a venue for:
• volunteer conservation tasks
• guided walks
• cycling events
• school and group educational visits
The recent family activity day had been a great success: the rangers had found a grass snake and a smooth snake on the heathland area which the visitors were able to look at closely. Recolonisation by such rare heathland species is very encouraging.
Further details of the site’s history, how to get there and the management plan can be found at www.dorsetforyou.com/index.jsp?articleid=38468 There are also links to all the other wildlife sites managed by EDCMS and information about the Play Rangers designed to encourage and enhance enjoyment of the sites by our younger residents.
Dorset Wildlife Trust's Urban Wildlife Centre, Beacon Hill, Corfe Mullen.
Amanda Cooke, Senior People and Wildlife Officer, outlined some of the work of the Centre:
• The Centre has close links with local schools and groups
• Adjacent to Upton Heath which DWT manages
• Mini-beast activities for children
• On a recent open day 200 visitors came to the centre (mainly local families)
• The New Frontiers project, which in East Dorset includes the development of a sensory and wildlife garden with the Verwood Opportunities Centre, joint working by the Friends of Upton Heath and the Urban Wildlife Volunteers on habitat management of Upton Heath, Corfe Mullen Meadows and Sovell Down.
Further details of the New Frontiers project can be found at: www.dorsetwildlife.co.uk/new_frontiers_project.html
2. The Corfe Mullen Nature Watch project, led by Jane Adams, is being funded by the Community Partnership as part of its programme of supporting Parish Plans and is being developed through the website www.naturewatched.org that she has designed and set up.
• The aim of the project is to encourage local residents to watch and record the native flora and fauna in the Corfe Mullen area.
• These records are being collated and sent to the Dorset Environmental Records Centre (DERC) in Dorchester, adding to the county records which are already accessible to students, local residents, local authorities, conservation organisations and consultants.
• Local people can send in photos, videos and records of the wildlife in their gardens and local public open spaces and get help with identification.
• Corfe Mullen Nature Watch events:
5 July Free Guided Twilight Walk at Barrow Hills (see the website for an account of this successful outing to see glow worms and nightjars)
10.00am 9th August Mini Beast Safari at Cogdean Elms.
• The site has useful information on how to watch and record wildlife.
The website is the main information “hub” for the project and provides a place for local residents to:
• Download and submit recording forms
• Find help on identification
• Find out about Wildlife Events (e.g. wildlife workshops)
• Read reference material
• Read about local wildlife sightings
• Watch local wildlife videos
• Browse a gallery of local wildlife photographs
• Watch a 24/7 wildlife webcam (set up in the garden of a Corfe Mullen resident showing wild foxes, wood mice, badgers, bats and hedgehogs)
• Provision is also being made for residents unable to access the website. Hard-copy recording forms and information leaflets have been produced, and a centralised pick-up/drop-off point has been arranged for completed forms.
• This project is already encouraging people to enjoy and learn about their local environment and wildlife, and it is hoped that it will also contribute to a sense of community in the village.
3. Urban Heaths Partnership Heather Tidball, Manager of the Partnership spoke to the group about its work and discussed the pressures our urban heaths have to withstand, the educational role of the wardens and the funding of the Partnership’s work. Full details of the history of the Partnership, its successes and continuing activities can be found at www.dorsetforyou.com/index.jsp?articleid=4868
The main emphasis of everything that the group looked at and discussed during this event was the importance of our wildlife and open spaces to people's wellbeing. By involving, educating and making people aware of what we have and how to conserve it we can work with local residents so that we have a win-win situation.