Dorset Wildflowers Appeal

Help us protect our local wildflower sites by helping us to raise £20,000

Many of us have fond childhood memories of family walks in the countryside, listening to the birds, watching the bumblebees and butterflies and being enthralled by the numerous types of wildflowers in the verges and fields.

Wildflowers still contribute hugely to what makes Dorset’s countryside so special.  However, many of our once-common flowers have declined at an alarming rate and a renewed conservation effort is urgently needed to ensure they don’t disappear altogether from our meadows and hedgerows.  Dorset Wildlife Trust (DWT) needs your support today, to help secure the future of our beautiful wildflowers.

Almost 1 in 5 of England’s plant species are under threat, with most of these suffering a decline of 30% or more.  In addition, many of our wildflowers, which are often thought of as common and widespread across England, such as ragged-Robin, harebell and field scabious are now worryingly close to being listed as threatened.  These are the key findings of an in-depth study of changes to England’s native flowers.  The results are particularly concerning as plants are a vital part of many of our ecosystems, with a host of other wildlife dependent upon their survival.

In Dorset our nature reserves provide safeguards for many of the plants listed as being in serious decline, however further improvements are needed on some reserves to ensure the needs of these wildflowers are best catered for.

The network of local wildlife sites in the wider countryside, known as Sites of Nature Conservation Interest (SNCIs) also provide havens.  However, DWT’s extensive knowledge of the SNCIs indicates that grassland sites in particular are under threat and even the most sympathetic owners are struggling to manage their sites appropriately, resulting in key flower species failing to thrive.

We have planned an ambitious and vital programme of work to help Dorset’s wildflowers by protecting and improving specific wildlife sites and DWT grassland nature reserves.  We will target the sites most vulnerable to further loss and we will help landowners and community groups to understand the value of wild flowers as part of a healthy, well-functioning countryside, and support them in managing their sites with this in mind.

We need to raise a further £20,000 in donations to ensure we can complete this vital work over the next 3 years.  Gifts in memory of John Wright, a much-missed long-time DWT volunteer, will be used to kick-start the project funding and we will be applying for grants to support this new and crucial conservation programme.  Any donations given will be used as the required ‘match funding’ for these grants, so that for each £1 you give, up to £9 more can be raised.

Please give whatever you can spare to help Dorset’s wildflowers and prevent them from becoming just a childhood memory.

Imogen Davenport
Director of Conservation
 

Click on the tabs above to read more and find out how you can help.

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attenboroughquote

Sir David Attenborough © Tom Marshall

Sir David Attenborough © Tom Marshall

 

Many of our plants are threatened

The publication of the Plant Red List for England** in 2014 showed that many of our plants are still declining at a worrying pace.  This most comprehensive check of our native flora found 1 in 5 are classed as under threat, having a 20-30% drop in their range or population.  This includes many once-widespread species that you would hope to see on a countryside walk, such as ragged-Robin, harebell, quaking-grass, common rock-rose and field scabious.

Why has this happened?

Changes in agriculture over the last century, including increased fertiliser use and the re-seeding of meadows with quick-growing grasses, have altered conditions leading to the loss of much wildflower habitat.  Cutting meadows before June for winter silage has increased production, but it prevents wildflowers from seeding and speeds up their disappearance.

Today the highly fragmented nature of our countryside is insufficient to maintain wildflower populations in the long term.

Dorset’s Sites of Nature Conservation Interest (SNCIs)

Valuable wildlife areas exist in many parts of Dorset outside of nature reserves and other protected sites. These pockets of undisturbed habitat, which are often found on farms and private land, form a valuable reservoir of wildlife where threatened wildflower species cling on.

However, Dorset has lost over 20 hectares of plant-rich wildlife sites in the last 3 years alone due to ploughing for arable crops, or having been re-seeded with rye grass and fertilised to form ‘improved’ pasture.  We also know of a further 7.5 hectares of rich chalk grassland under immediate threat and that some SNCI owners are struggling to manage their sites to enable wildflowers to thrive.


*Plantlife: Global Strategy for Plant Conservation, 2002
**Botanical Society of Britain & Ireland, A Vascular Plant Red List for England

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Ragged Robin © Ken Dolbear MBE

Ragged Robin © Ken Dolbear MBE

Harebell © Ken Dolbear MBE

Harebell © Ken Dolbear MBE

 

Restore and connect

The authors of the Plant Red List, some of our most eminent botanists, recommend that restoring and connecting the surviving plant-rich sites and creating others at a landscape scale are essential to stop the declines.  But we must act fast.

Dorset wildflower project

Dorset Wildlife Trust will begin a three-year conservation project to help our wildflowers and prevent the further decline of key species by making improvements at a number of grassland nature reserves and the most vulnerable wildlife sites.  The project will also discover new, unrecorded sites where key wildflowers survive and work with site owners and community groups to improve and look-after wildflower populations.

The DWT nature reserves that will benefit from this project are spread across Dorset and include: Bracketts Coppice, Fontmell Down, Happy Bottom, Haydon Hill, Kingcombe Meadows, Lorton Meadows, Loscombe, Peascombe, Powerstock Common, Sovell Down, Townsend and Winfrith Heath.

In the wider Dorset countryside the project will also target wildlife sites that are most prone to further habitat loss or damage, loss of grazing, or changes in land drainage.  Also sites where key plant species were historically present, or the conditions would suit them and where key species have declined.

What will we be doing?

  • A professional botanical surveyor will survey the sites recording any key species present and assessing for restoration. They will also identify the best ways to improve and restore wildflower richness.
  • Collect green hay and seed from our best wildflower sites
  • Introduce threatened wildflower species by using full green hay restoration, or by spreading harvested seed on target sites involving volunteers and local communities, or by growing-on collected seed of key species, creating plugs and planting out.
  • Work to control scrub and bracken better to prevent encroachment onto plant-rich grasslands.
  • Engage with volunteers and members of the public to help people to identify the threatened species and highlight the importance of protecting and managing them.
  • Improve control of livestock grazing, which is vital for maintaining plant-rich grassland.
  • Follow-up with the owners and managers of SNCIs, to advise on how best to manage the land to support key plant species
  • Where appropriate, advise community groups on site management and involve them in organising voluntary work parties to clear encroaching scrub.

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Burnett moth © Wildstock

Burnett moth © Wildstock

Surveying for Marsh Fritillary

Surveying for Marsh Fritillary

How will the project be funded?

This new and crucial programme will cost in excess of £40,000.  DWT will use the gifts received in memory of John Wright, a much-missed long time DWT volunteer, for this work.

We will also apply for grants whereby any donations given will be used as the ‘match funding’ part of DWT’s contribution; so that for each £1 you give, up to £9 more could be raised.

We need to raise a further £20,000 in donations to ensure we can complete this vital work over the next 3 years.

Please give as much as you can afford; every little helps.

All donations will only be used for the Dorset Wildflower project, so you can be sure 100% is spent on this vital work.

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Marbled white © Tony Bates

Marbled white © Tony Bates

 

How your donation will be put to good work

We need to raise a further £20,000 in donations to ensure we can complete this vital work over the next 3 years.

All donations will only be used for the Dorset Wildflower project, so you can be sure 100% is spent on this vital work.

  • Each £10 could release up to £90 more in grant funding.
  • £20 could fund the re-seeding of 50 square metres of wildflower grassland.
  • £80 would cover the cost of a half-day advisory visit with a landowner.
  • £100 could help purchase equipment for seed harvesting and propagation or cover the cost of producing a Management Statement for a site.
  • £180 could help a volunteer work party to clear scrub from a site or enable a day’s surveying for key plant species, with a report.
  • £365 could fund the installation of a new trough and water supply to enable grazing.
  • £3,000 could fund full green hay restoration work at a site like Winfrith Heath prison fields.

Please help Dorset’s wildflowers by making a donation today

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Chalk grasland © Mark Heighes

Chalk grasland © Mark Heighes

 

 

 

 

 

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