Dorset Wildlife Trust is committed to showcasing, conserving and raising awareness of Dorset’s extraordinary wildlife population through its programme of walks, talks and wildlife events. Responsible for an impressive 44 nature reserves located throughout the region, guests staying Summer Lodge County House Hotel and Restaurant and The Acorn Inn have easy access to these carefully preserved areas of natural beauty and the wildlife that inhabit them. Here, Sally Welbourn, Communications Officer for Dorset Wildlife Trust, talks to us about the different species that can be found in the area and how to spot them.
Can you talk us through the work that the Dorset Wildlife Trust does?
“Established over 50 years ago, Dorset Wildlife Trust has over 27,500 members and 44 fabulous nature reserves across the county. DWT has three main areas of work: protecting the natural environment, mainly through its reserves and working with landowners; influencing the major decisions in the county to take into account wildlife and habitats; and engaging people and organisations with their local environment through, for example, events and volunteering.
Local conservation projects include reserve management, rewilding of rivers, landowner and farm advice, Living Churchyards, The Great Heath open access heathland restoration and establishment of Marine Protected Areas. We’re also exploring the benefits that nature can have on health and wellbeing and have established the Greengage project in Swanage over recent years, a hub for people with physical and mental health issues where they can enjoy spending time with nature.”
What makes Dorset such a special destination for wildlife lovers?
“Dorset is a special place because it has such a wide-range of habitats, such as heathland, ancient woodland, marine, meadows, farmland, and wetland, to name just a few. This interesting and varied habitat supports a huge range of wildlife – from the red squirrels on Brownsea Island, to the little terns on Chesil Beach. As well as Dorset’s stunning, well known natural landmarks such as Durdle Door and Old Harry Rocks, it’s worth visiting the lesser-known, but equally incredible DWT sites such as the Tout Quarry nature reserve on Portland and Kingcombe Meadows nature reserve, further in-land. If you love coastal and countryside views, along with rich and varied mammals, invertebrates, reptiles, and marine wildlife (we have all six of them in Dorset), then this is the place to visit!”
What are some of the ways that you help protect Dorset’s wildlife and promote sustainability?
“We’ve been carrying out beach cleans for years, but the public understanding and compassion for the issues surrounding marine litter has sky-rocketed recently due to Blue Planet II, and we’ve seen more and more people volunteering to support our work as a result of this. We rely hugely on volunteers – and we have a huge band of them out helping our conservation officers with practical work in Dorset, from hedge laying to wildlife gardening. We also have a range of sustainable products in our online shop – complete with a DWT re-fillable water bottle, and we have water bottle filling stations at our visitor centres.”
Can you explain the concepts behind your Living Landscapes and Living Seas initiatives?
“Our vision is to restore, recreate and reconnect wildlife habitats on a vast scale, in harmony with the way people live, work and enjoy the land. A Living Landscape or Living sea will be full of wildlife which is highly valued by people who learn from and enjoy nature. Linking up fragmented habitats to create larger habitats – such as we did with the Great Heath Living Landscape project is a great example of Living Landscapes at work. Our conservation and project work ensure that we are managing, expanding and linking habitats in Dorset so wildlife can thrive in both urban and more rural areas.”
What are your top tips for visitors wanting to spot local wildlife?
“One thing we can guarantee on our nature reserves, is wildlife! For butterfly spotting, Kingcombe Meadows Nature Reserve is ideal. If you’d like to see bluebells in spring, one of our woodland sites such as Bracketts Coppice would be best. For orchids, Townsend Nature Reserve, or for some winter bird watching, there’s West Bexington. Many wildlife spots in Dorset are seasonal, too – so it’s always best to do some research whilst planning your visit – and remember to take the right clothing and the all-important binoculars! Or, you could take a chance and visit somewhere completely new and off your local patch. You might be rewarded with the best wildlife spot yet!”
Explore the Dorset Wildlife Trust’s Nature Reserves for yourself when you stay at Summer Lodge County House Hotel and Restaurant or The Acorn Inn.
Image Credits: Lead image © Paul Williams. West Dorset landscape © Tony Bates.Harvest mouse © Steve Davis. Spiny seahorse © Julie Hatcher.