Dorset Wildlife Trust makes huge land purchase


Dorset Wildlife Trust (DWT) and Natural England have jointly acquired 335 ha of chalk downland and farmland north-east of Dorchester.

The purchase at Lyscombe aims to conserve nature and restore the environment within the Dorset Downs. It was made possible by Natural England's National Nature Reserves programme and a planned nutrient mitigation credit scheme, alongside donations from DWT supporters.

Lyscombe Farm encompasses chalk grassland, scrub, wildflower meadows and ancient woodland. It includes a 50-ha Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), Sites of Nature Conservation Interest (SNCI) and several Scheduled Monuments, including Lyscombe Chapel. The farm has already implemented wildlife-friendly land management through the Countryside Stewardship Scheme.

Downland birds such as Yellowhammer will benefit from the traditional land management at Lyscombe (W Schulenburg).

The project also aims to mitigate the harmful nutrient levels entering Poole Harbour, which currently suffers from input of excess nutrients from treated sewage and agricultural activities. Nutrient inputs at Lyscombe will be reduced, while new wetland habitats will be created.

DWT plans to enhance habitats and boost downland biodiversity at Lyscombe using natural regeneration techniques and traditional land management. Extensive livestock grazing will play a vital role, and there are ambitions to establish Lyscombe as a centrepiece for a broader nature recovery network across the wider Dorset Downs landscape.

Brian Bleese, Chief Executive of DWT, said: "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."

He added: "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."

Rachel Williams, Natural England's Deputy Director for 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."

Mark Russell, former owner of Lyscombe, said: "I eagerly anticipate Lyscombe becoming a haven for both nature and people and providing a cherished space for future generations to enjoy."