These are early days for me as Outreach Officer for Back from the Brink, I joined in September, however I am already feeling the buzz of enthusiasm surrounding this project from the outset. Sophie and Caroline, the Project Managers, have already had a very busy summer visiting the key heathland sites for the project, speaking to the land managers about the conservation work on the ground and getting baseline botanical surveys underway.
For Sophie this project is a chance to do something really practical to change the fortunes of some of the declining heathland species....for Caroline it’s about awe inspiring all ages and encouraging them to discover the unsung beauties of our heathland heart.
The Dorset Heaths not only provide some of the best wildlife spots to visit in the country but they are also recognised on an international level. Our project is all about partnerships and building on some of the important work that has already taken place on these rugged wildlife sites. The conservation work will be focusing on the management of eight microhabitats (such as trackways, pool edges and patches of bare sand) across Dorset. Historically these were provided by traditional usage of heathlands and are necessary for a large number of our scarce and declining species. To recreate this management we will basically be using heavy duty machinery to open up small niche areas needed for these priority species to reproduce and survive. We will then be recording what happens to these species and sites as a result of this intervention with the help of lots of volunteers.
Focusing on 18 priority species across the different taxa (plants, birds, mammals, invertebrates and reptiles) gives us the opportunity to work with many different organisations and to appeal to a wide audience.
We look forward to involving lots of people in the conservation of the heaths, whether beginners, interested amateurs or professional recorders. We will shortly be setting up a programme of guided walks, ID workshops, survey work, and training for outdoor educators, so please watch this space.
For now, many of the animals are starting to get ready for hibernation, but I’m still looking forward to getting out to see some of the other species that are visible during the winter – such as the evergreen Marsh Clubmoss. Clubmosses are ancient species with an alternating lifecycle – it’s not even known what the small, sexually-reproducing stage of Marsh Clubmoss looks like! But we do know that it likes to colonise bare ground created by livestock trampling or tractors – we’ll be watching closely to see if it appears in any of the small bare areas we’ll be creating this winter.