Over the past year, the landscapes of Dorset have benefitted from the extensive funding and expertise brought in by the Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Partnership.

Between April 2021 and March 2022, over £2 million has been invested in the natural beauty of the Dorset AONB, in turn benefitting wildlife and people across this nationally important protected landscape.

With this financial support, we have brought together land managers, communities, businesses and visitors to help conserve, enhance and celebrate the very diverse landscapes that are so special to Dorset.

This work has been made possible by the generous national funders, transforming every £1 of Dorset Council support to over £41 of action on the ground.

“The Dorset AONB team have played a unique role this year – leading, supporting and brokering relationships that help nature recover and people connect.” Dr Phil Sterling, Dorset AONB Chair

Read on to find out what we have achieved for NATURE, CLIMATE, PEOPLE and PLACE


The AONB’s wealth of wildlife is one of the outstanding qualities that underpin its designation and the lowland heathland of Purbeck is particularly special with a concentration of species such as sand lizard and smooth snake that do not occur in such numbers anywhere else in the country.

The Dorset AONB team led a partnership of landowning organisations with a successful bid to the Green Recovery Challenge Fund of £549,900. This has enabled £867,000 of investment to create a single unit of 1,370 ha lowland heathland mosaic at the heart of the recently declared Purbeck Heaths National Nature Reserve (NNR) for grazing by cattle, ponies and pigs. This will recover nature and build resilience for some of Britain’s most threatened species.


  • Over 20km perimeter secured with fences, ditches and 7 cattle grids to create a single grazing unit on the Purbeck Heaths
  • 14 interpretation boards, visitor website and leaflet for created for the Purbeck Heaths to improve and manage access
  • 750ha surveyed and priority species identified for future monitoring, with Purbeck Natural History Forum set up to engage volunteer surveyors

“Behind the success of this large-scale grazing unit lies many hours and days committed to sensitive, collaborative working between landowners, communities and businesses – no mean feat!” Tom Munro, Dorset AONB Team Manager


Landscape and nature in west Dorset have benefitted from over £430,000 additional funding brought in by the Dorset AONB team, who also coordinated action with our partners*.

The 3-year South Dorset Ridgeway Landscape Enhancement Initiative ended in March having achieved a significant amount of hedgelaying, tree planting and grassland restoration with £200,000 support from the National Grid.

Our successful ‘Hills and Vales’ bid to the Green Recovery Challenge Fund brought a further £237,000 and scaled up work to enhance the Asker and Char rivers as well as further tree, hedge, pond and grassland work.

* Farmers and land managers, Dorset Wildlife Trust, FWAG SW, Dorset Environmental Records Centre, Litter Free Dorset and National Trust.


  • 3.3km new hedgerow planted and 2.7km hedgerow restored through laying
  • 112 orchard and hedgerow trees planted
  • 11 ponds and 600m river restored
  • 16.6ha grassland restored and enhanced
  • 200m dry stone wall restored
  • 400 people engaged directly in these projects

“The additional funding has enabled us to really scale up the work we have been doing with farmers, making a significant difference to the quality of the landscape.”
Ian Rees, Dorset AONB Team


Farmers and land managers in protected landscapes in England benefitted from a new dedicated fund from Defra and the Dorset AONB team were quick to set up a small team to administer the scheme in Dorset.

In this first year, 40 new projects have received £212,000 of funding from the Farming in Protected Landscapes programme, supporting 75 farmers.

The programme can support projects that help nature recovery, mitigate the impacts of climate change, provide opportunities for people to discover, enjoy and understand the landscape and cultural heritage, and support nature-friendly, sustainable farm businesses.

A further £800,000 is available until the scheme ends in 2024.


  • 600 trees and over 5km of hedgerow planted
  • 1,482ha being managed with regenerative farming techniques
  • 6,246ha of habitat improvement work to benefit biodiversity
  • 2km of new permissive paths created
  • 15 new access improvement projects
  • 2 new farm clusters created to support farmers

“Enquiries have been flowing in since Day 1 … it’s great to meet so many Dorset farmers who want to make such positive change” Rachel Janes, Dorset AONB Team

Wareham Causeway in Winter (c) Michael Brown


The Dorset AONB work programme includes considerable climate action, including nature-based solutions, promoting regenerative agriculture and supporting renewable energy developments at appropriate scales for their location.

Much work has also been done to support the local economy through creating pathways to market for local food and drink, promoting car free visitor experiences and sustainable tourism planning.

The Dorset AONB Chair has helped the National Association for AONBs (NAAONB) develop a collective statement of commitment for climate action, which is being shared with all AONB Partnerships to adopt and support. The Dorset AONB Team Manager also leads the NAAONB Agriculture and Climate Change group, contributing to the Climate Action Framework and Toolkit.


“As one of the larger AONBs, it’s important we help lead the way on important issues within the AONB family” Dr Phil Sterling, Dorset AONB Chair


Our award-winning Stepping into Nature project, supported by the National Lottery Community Fund, continues to lead the way in developing innovative ways to benefit health and wellbeing through connections with nature.

The Your Seasons of Stories project has been working with artists, people living with long term health conditions, older people and carers to co-design a free creative pack capturing nature through the seasons. This sits alongside the Seasons of Stories Summer, Autumn and Spring books which all help stimulate conversations about nature.

An effective catalyst for bringing people and resources together, the team helps drive the Health and Nature Dorset initiative and helped set up the Nature Buddies scheme.


“Connecting to health and care organisations is crucial to making access to nature mainstream” Julie Hammon, Stepping into Nature


Inspiring deeper relationships between people and place has been central to our engagement activities over the past year.

Our extended 60th anniversary celebrations, supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, helped us start and sustain conversations about the landscape through 3 creative projects – Talking Tent, Council of All Beings and Beyond the Map. These projects have enabled us to meet people in their own landscapes to find out what is special to them.

Working with artists to engage local people through poetry, storytelling, printmaking and performance has unlocked conversations with a broader audience of almost 1,000 people.


  • 450 people welcomed into the Talking Tent to record what makes the Dorset AONB special to them
  • 220 children from 7 schools explored Dorset wildlife as part of our Council of All Beings project
  • Beyond the Map project involved 250 people in the Char Valley area exploring what is special to them about the landscape
  • 5,000+ people attended the Inside Out Dorset Festival in Symondsbury, organised by Activate Performing Arts with support from Dorset AONB
  • £15,000 awarded to 10 community projects through our Sustainable Development Fund

“Meeting people in their own landscapes with creative activities has been a great way of starting conversations and finding out what people think is special – with some surprising results!” Sue Dampney, Dorset AONB Team


The Dorset AONB is a living, working landscape and our role is not only to conserve it but to help make sure that changes in the landscape are as positive as can be. Our Planning Protocol has enabled us to support planners and provide technical advice on planning applications that could significantly affect the character of the landscape.

This year has seen the number of consultations received rise from 150 to 205, including large and complex cases to consider including big solar energy developments; speculative and allocated housing proposals; tourism ventures requiring change of use of agricultural land and management of woods relating to ash die-back.


“Our work is about managing change, to contribute to the specialness of this part of Dorset” Richard Brown, Dorset AONB Team

Helping to keep Dorset’s outstanding landscapes special is often best done in collaboration and the Dorset AONB Team have been very successful in bringing people and places together.

Rivers are an important landscape feature and hosting the West Dorset Rivers & Coastal Streams initiative has enabled us to work with communities along failing rivers to improve their quality. This has brought in £14,000 Environment
Agency support through the Dorset Wild Rivers partnership.

Interpreting special places for visitors and locals alike has also been a focus, pooling ideas from landowners and local communities to develop new interpretive schemes at Kimmeridge and West Bay.


  • 500m of restoration of River Char and River Asker, 200m by volunteers
  • 140 people engaged with Rivers Char and Asker, including 30 school pupils and 754 people through Dorset Wild Rivers
  • 12km of river cleared of Himalayan balsam on the upper Asker
  • 16ha habitat improvement through Dorset Wild Rivers
  • successful collaborative visitor management schemes at West Bay and Kimmeridge completed

“Local people and landowners have a real appetite for landscape enhancements to tackle the climate and ecological emergency” Ian Rees, Dorset AONB Team


Dorset AONB Partnership & Staff Team

The Dorset AONB Partnership encompasses 20 organisations from local government, local community and national Defra agencies, the farming, rural business and conservation sectors.

This Partnership oversees a core team of 6 officers (5 FTE) whose direct work, project development and influence help to conserve and enhance this special place. A further 8 officers (7 FTE) are engaged on projects and the whole team is hosted by Dorset Council.

Dorset AONB Financial Headlines

From April 2021 to March 2022:

£2,265,514: Total direct spend by the Dorset AONB Partnership (core and projects)

£306,087: Core costs covered by Defra (64.2%), Dorset Council (17.8%) and earned income and grants

  • Each £1 of core funding levered in £9.02
  • Each £1 of Dorset Council funding levered in £41.57

Major Project Income 2021-22:

  • Green Recovery Challenge Fund: £754,225
  • National Lottery Heritage Fund: £44,450
  • Farming in Protected Landscapes (Defra): £262,751
  • Reaching Communities (National Lottery Community Fund): £69,212
  • Wytch Farm Landscape Enhancement Fund: £375,350
  • Landscape Enhancement Initiative (National Grid): £70,669
  • Heathland Mitigation Fund £56,721

Find out more

Please do contact the Dorset AONB Team if you would like further information about any of our projects. You can find contact details of all our staff here but do contact Kate Townsend for general enquiries on 01305 228246 or kate.townsend@dorsetcouncil.gov.uk.

You may also be interested in signing up to our e-newsletter for news and ideas for getting out and about in Dorset’s outstanding landscapes.

Our browse the EXPLORE section on our website for over 60 places to explore and things to do.

Photo credits

We are very grateful to the wonderfully talented amateur photographers who show their love of Dorset through their photographs, many gifted to us through our biannual photo competitions:

  • Clavell Tower (c) Colin Foster
  • Nature: Purbeck Heaths (c) Nigel Gidney
  • Nature: View from Eggardon Hill (c) Zara Huddleston
  • Climate: Toby Hoad with Horse Drawn Forwarder (c) Emma Russell
  • Climate: Rain Stops Play (c) Michael Brown
  • People: Your seasons of stories workshop (c) Ben Ingram
  • People: Talking Tent at Inside Out Dorset Festival (c) Dorset AONB
  • Place: Colmers Hill (c) James Loveridge
  • Place: Kimmeridge Ledges (c) Nigel Gidney
  • Making Things Happen: Swyre Head (c) Oscar deWit