Dorset’s largest nature conservation charity celebrates an amazing 50 year journey this month. On March 28th 1961, 306 pioneers of nature conservation attended the first meeting of Dorset Naturalists' Trust in Dorchester, answering the call of a public notice: “Those who genuinely desire to preserve the natural features of the County must take positive action to safeguard them”. Since then Dorset Wildlife Trust (re-named in 1994) has grown to become the largest nature conservation body in the county with 25,000 members and 42 reserves, representing over 1300 hectares of the most important wildlife havens.
In the beginning
Led by Honorary Secretary and wildlife champion Helen Brotherton, DWT acquired its first reserve at Holway Woods north of Sherborne. Brownsea Island followed shortly, thanks to Miss Brotherton, who secured the island for the National Trust, with DWT managing just under half as a nature reserve. Now DWT’s reserves range from West Bexington in the west to Sopley Common in the east, including rare and precious wildlife habitats from heathland to flower meadows to wetlands and ancient woods. Conservation in the new millennium takes in much of the wider landscape outside the reserves, with farmers, fishermen, communities and wildlife gardeners all playing their part. Dorset has led the way in marine conservation, joining other Wildlife Trusts around the country in campaigning for protection of our seas, leading to the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009, which promises marine reserves by 2012.
Help us celebrate
Celebrations of the big birthday have been designed to include as many people as possible, so instead of a private party, DWT has invited everybody in Dorset to join in with its 50 for 50 Challenge to secure the future for wildlife in the county.
Fiona Sansom, Supporter Development Manager at Dorset Wildlife Trust, said: “We wanted to invite everybody in Dorset to join in with our celebrations, because the natural heritage of our wonderful county belongs to us all. We have asked people to raise £50 one for each of our 50 years - and already we have had pledges, ranging from people going vegetarian to putting on concerts or donating for every wildlife species they photograph. Help us reach our target of 500 pledges -what better way to celebrate than to secure the future for wildlife in one of the most diverse and beautiful counties in England?”
To join in with the 50 for 50 Challenge and find out the other 50th Anniversary events, including the new 42toDO cycle route around the reserves, visit www.dorsetwildlifetrust.org.uk/jubilee.