Fire destroys 3 hectares of Upton Heath nature reserve
Monday 6th August 2018
Dorset Wildlife Trust (DWT) is starting a clean-up operation following a fire which has destroyed 3 hectares of heathland on its Upton Heath nature reserve, near Corfe Mullen.
The fire started at 3pm on Sunday afternoon (5th August) and was attended to by 30 fire crews (roughly 100 firefighters) from Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service. The cause of the fire is unknown, but it is thought to have been either started deliberately or by careless behaviour, resulting in a fire which spread very quickly in the dry conditions.
Upton Heath, which is part of the Great Heath Living Landscape Project, is one of the largest areas of heathland remaining in Dorset and is recognised internationally for the rarity of habitat and wildlife that lives there, such as the nightjar and the Dartford warbler. It is home to all 6 native reptile species including the nationally rare smooth snake and sand lizard. A week before this fire, two 14-day old nightjar chicks were ringed in the area where the fire occurred – unable to fly, it is almost certain they would not have survived.
In 2011 a large fire destroyed just under 100 hectares of heathland on Upton Heath. Work to restore the area has been ongoing since, so a fire such as this one is a massive step back for wildlife and conservationists.
DWT’s East Dorset Living Landscapes and Living Seas Manager, Nicki Brunt said, “We are so saddened to see this wonderful nature reserve become a victim to fire once again. The 3 hectares affected were at the corner of the reserve, near the A35, and it’s with thanks to the fire crews who brought it under control quickly that there wasn’t a worse outcome for wildlife and the people living close-by. We will be spending the coming days and weeks making sure the fire doesn’t re-light, assessing the damage to wildlife, and starting the recovery process. We know from experience that it will take years, if not decades for the habitat to recover.”
Whether this fire was started deliberately or by negligence, DWT desperately urges the public to be mindful of the potential devastation that can be caused by a small spark, for example from a discarded cigarette, on dry heathland at this time of year.
If you see any suspicious behaviour which could lead to a fire on one of our nature reserves, or if you spot a fire, please call 999 immediately.
If you’d like to become part of our Heath Watch team to help be the eyes and ears of Upton Heath, and help us look after it all year round, visit our sign up page here.
Find out more about Upton Heath here.
Notes to Editor
For more information please contact Sally Welbourn at Dorset Wildlife Trust on 01305 264620.
Working for a secure future for Dorset’s wildlife enriching the quality of life
Dorset Wildlife Trust works to champion wildlife and natural places, to engage and inspire people and to promote sustainable living. Founded in 1961, DWT is now the largest voluntary nature conservation organisation in Dorset, with over 25,000 members and over 40 nature reserves. Most are open daily and there are visitor centres providing a wealth of wildlife information at Brooklands Farm, Lorton Meadows, Kingcombe Meadows and Brownsea Island Nature Reserves, The Purbeck Marine Wildlife Reserve and the Urban Wildlife Centre at Upton Heath Nature Reserve. DWT plays a key role in dealing with local environmental issues and leads the way in establishing the practices of sustainable development and engaging new audiences in conservation, particularly in the urban areas.
The Great Heath Living Landscape an Urban Living Landscape in Dorset delivers the following exciting objectives:
Sites include land at Hampreston and High Mead Lane, Award Road, Ferndown Common, Delph Wood, Arrowsmith Copse, Dunyeats Hill, Corfe Lodge Road, Upton Heath, Beacon Hill, Cottage Farm (Happy Bottom), Ashington Paddock, Barrow Hill, Wimborne Road, Rushcombe Bottom, Parley Common, Tricketts Cross, Lytchett Bay and Holes Bay.
The full Great Heath Living Landscape project cost was £4.7 million, we secured £2 million and were awarded £2.7 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund and need to raise further funds by public appeal.
The Great Heath Living Landscape is a partnership project involving Dorset Wildlife Trust, the Erica Trust, Poole Harbour Commissioners, Borough of Poole, Dorset County Council Countryside Service, Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust. Partners also include Bournemouth Borough Council, Christchurch and East Dorset Councils and Natural England.
Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF)
Using money raised through the National Lottery, the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) aims to make a lasting difference for heritage, people and communities across the UK and help build a resilient heritage economy. From museums, parks and historic places to archaeology, natural environment and cultural traditions, we invest in every part of our diverse heritage. HLF has supported 36,000 projects with £6bn across the UK. For more information, please contact Katie Owen, HLF press office, on tel: 020 7591 6036/07973 613820.
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