A moment in time: Dorset Wildlife Trust acquires 335 hectares of land

Dorset Wildlife Trust partners with Natural England to acquire Lyscombe Farm to make more space for nature

Dorset Wildlife Trust and Natural England have purchased 335 hectares (833 acres) of chalk downland and farmland at Lyscombe, 10 miles north-east of Dorchester. The land has been acquired for nature conservation and environmental restoration. It was made possible through funding from Natural England’s National Nature Reserves programme, and planned nutrient mitigation credit scheme, alongside generous donations from Dorset Wildlife Trust’s members and supporters.

The farm lies within the Dorset Downs in an area of chalk grassland, scrub, wildflower meadows and ancient woodland. Existing designations include a 50-hectare Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), Sites of Nature Conservation Interest (SNCI) and several Scheduled Monuments including Lyscombe Chapel. For many years, the farm has practiced wildlife-friendly land management techniques within the Countryside Stewardship Scheme.

Whilst the primary interest of all the partners is to see the area managed for nature recovery, this will also serve to reduce the levels of harmful nutrients entering Poole Harbour. Poole Harbour’s wildlife and water quality is suffering badly from an excess of nutrients coming down its waterways. These originate from both housing (via treated sewage which still contains high levels of nutrients) and from fertilisers and manure applied to farmed land. By adopting a more sustainable form of land management, nutrients entering the top of the catchment at Lyscombe will be reduced both by removing inputs, and through natural recovery measures such as creating new wetland habitat that can capture nutrients.

Over the coming years, Dorset Wildlife Trust will use natural regeneration techniques blended with traditional land management to enhance habitats, support the site’s valuable downland, and enable increases in wildlife abundance throughout the landscape. Livestock will continue to play an important role at Lyscombe with the introduction of an extensive grazing regime. Through working with neighbouring landowners and farmers, the ambition is to use Lyscombe as a nucleus from which to create a nature recovery network across the wider Dorset Downs landscape.

Dorset Wildlife Trust’s Chief Executive, Brian Bleese said, “This is amazing news for wildlife in Dorset. This purchase represents one of the largest land acquisitions in Dorset Wildlife Trust’s history and a major opportunity to make more space for nature in the Dorset landscape, to engage people in conserving Dorset’s rich natural heritage, and to transform the land into a wildlife-rich National Nature Reserve.

The UK has signed up to the Global Biodiversity Framework target to ensure that at least 30% of land and sea is effectively conserved and managed by 2030 (the ’30 by 30’ target). This major acquisition will be a significant building block to help reach that ambition in Dorset. Dorset Wildlife Trust’s natural regeneration project at Wild Woodbury has, through working extensively with the local community and neighbouring landowners, seen wildlife bounce back in just two years.  Over 1,600 species have now been recorded, including nationally threatened species such as tree pipit, woodlark, and hen harrier.

We also look forward to improving visitor access to this stunning Lyscombe landscape, particularly on existing footpaths and rights of way to help local people and visitors to enjoy this incredibly special place. Opportunities will be created for people of all backgrounds and abilities to learn about and enjoy nature and help to create a wildlife haven for everyone through volunteering.”
Rachel Williams, Natural England’s Deputy Director who leads the organisation’s work in Wessex said: “We are delighted to be partnering with Dorset Wildlife Trust and others in this significant project which has the potential to substantially boost nature’s recovery in this part of Dorset.
This is a great example of thinking creatively and bringing partners and different types of funding together. A large proportion of the funding is from Natural England’s nutrient mitigation scheme, meaning this work will offset the nutrient impact of much needed housing elsewhere in the Poole harbour catchment. While crucially playing its part in creating a beautiful landscape for people to come and enjoy for many years to come.”

Mark Russell, former owner of Lyscombe expressed his delight at the transition of Lyscombe to the stewardship of Dorset Wildlife Trust. Mark said, “I eagerly anticipate Lyscombe becoming a haven for both nature and people and providing a cherished space for future generations to enjoy.”

To find out more about the plans for Lyscombe, visit www.dorsetwildlifetrust.org.uk/Lyscombe

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