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Dorset Urban Heaths Grazing Project

Location:East Dorset, Poole and Bournemouth

Habitats:Urban

Livestock:Various breeds and types of livestock

In brief:A partnership approach to the complex issues of urban heathland grazing in Dorset.

Contact:Sean Cooch

Tel:

Email:sean.cooch@naturalengland.org.uk

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An Urban Heaths Grazing Partnership was originally formed back in September 2005 from various Local Authorities (Poole, Bournemouth, East Dorset, Christchurch, Dorset County Council), nature conservation NGOs (RSPB, Dorset Wildlife Trust and HCT) and Natural England working together to address management problems, particularly securing grazing, on Dorset’s urban heaths.

The urban heaths in Dorset, comprising nearly 2000 hectares of internationally designated heathland, are extremely fragmented and surrounded by the huge conurbations of Poole and Bournemouth. Despite this, some large areas remain and there is considerable willingness to manage these sites to safeguard their future in their own right, as well as to manage them for nature conservation. The urban heaths are also of vital importance in and around the East Dorset and coastal corridor as natural greenspace.

The particular problems experienced by the urban heaths concern a range of local and national organisations - the heathland owners and managers, the fire service, the police and Natural England. These organisations have formed the Urban Heaths Partnership and are working together to combat the urban pressures on the heaths. Working together means they can maximise their resources and avoid duplicating each other's efforts.

The biggest problem currently faced by Dorset's heathlands is from tree and scrub encroachment due to a lack of management. When the agricultural use of Dorset's heathlands ended about 50 years ago they became neglected. Many of the heathland sites are grazed by local farmers through agri-environment schemes.

In the urban setting this problem is compounded by further pressures such arson, visitor, public perception of what heaths are and the lack of sustainable grazing management or even likelihood of grazing.

The DUHGP hopes to secure funds through Environmental Stewardship in 2007/08 to deliver a unique grazing project.