Dorset receives grants of £763,900 from the Green Recovery Challenge Fund

Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Partnership receives £763,900 with two of the first environmental projects awarded from the government’s Green Recovery Challenge Fund.

Purbeck heathland, part of nature recovery project in Dorset (c) Gareth James

We are delighted to announce that the Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Partnership, hosted by Dorset Council, has received two of the first environmental projects awarded from the government’s £80 million Green Recovery Challenge Fund, bringing a total of £763,900 for projects in Purbeck and West Dorset.

Dr Phil Stirling, the Dorset AONB Chairman explains: the Dorset AONB Team has led these two successful bids, bringing together a range of farmers and delivery partners including Dorset Wildlife Trust, National Trust and the RSPB. This is what the AONB does best – taking a strategic role to agree priorities for action and drawing in new resources to get vital ‘on the ground’ work done. This work will not only benefit wildlife but contribute to sustaining local enterprises. We are also delighted to be connecting with local communities and are pleased these projects will help support them in the challenging times they face during the continuing pandemic and beyond.”

Purbeck heathland to benefit

In Purbeck, the Green Recovery Challenge Fund grant of £549,900 will build on the work of Wild Purbeck and will 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 by reintroducing lost ecological processes, creating a more dynamic, complex and better-connected suite of habitats; thereby recovering diversity and building resilience for some of Britain’s most threatened species.

But the benefits aren’t solely for wildlife – the funds will help restore the NNR’s nature-rich landscape to the heart of the local community, reconnecting people and nature. The grazing unit will support local grazing businesses and quality sustainable meat producers; it will formalise links with local schools and community groups. The project will also bring tourism and activity providers together with conservationists, to develop a sustainable ecotourism destination, harnessing the opportunity to make nature recovery an asset to the local and wider community.

Coombe Heath (c) Michael Brown

Peter Robertson, RSPB Senior Sites Manager, Dorset Reserves, said: “We are delighted to be part of the partnership in Purbeck that will be receiving support from the Green Recovery Challenge Fund. The RSPB has been involved in Purbeck for over 50 years, helping restore the land for the benefit of both wildlife and people. Located in one of the most biodiverse parts of the UK, we look forward to this project helping deliver great things delivering even more joined up, bigger and better nature richer areas at a landscape scale and helping delver the UK Government’s ambitions to protect 30% of land by 2030.”

(c) National Trust Images & John Miller

Tracey Churcher, National Trust General Manager said: “This grant from the GRCF is going to help us put into action an ambitious plan for nature recovery in Purbeck. We want to create a landscape in which nature is in the ascendency, and we will be making sure our local communities benefit from it, by providing better access to nature and by supporting local jobs in ecotourism.”

West Dorset landscape features restored

In West Dorset, with a grant of £214,000, we will be working with numerous farmers and five conservation organisations to conserve and restore some of the best loved and valuable landscape features in the area. This includes restoring nine ponds, stretches of river, lowland meadow, traditional orchards and hedgerows. The work will also expand the natural flood management capacity of the River Asker and control invasive species such as Himalayan balsam, which have been adversely dominating some habitats.

Kingcombe Meadows (c) Mark Heighes

Connecting people with nature is also an important element of the work and we will support seven communities to improve their local water environments as well as tackle litter issues. Improving access at the Dorset Wildlife Trust Kingcombe Meadows Nature Reserve will also help more people enjoy this unique and beautiful wildlife reserve. This work complements our current Landscape Enhancement Initiative in West Dorset.

Cllr Ray Bryan, Dorset Council Portfolio Holder for Highways, Travel and Environment, said: “We are very proud to be part of the AONB partnership, supporting their work by hosting the team within the organisation and forming part of this bid. This award shows that working together to protect and enhance the natural environment has a whole range of benefits.”

Tom Munro, Dorset AONB Manager said “We’re really looking forward to getting started on both projects which complement our existing work to conserve and enhance natural beauty, and help demonstrate that AONBs and National Parks can be the backbone of a nature recovery network for England. In addition, we’ll support around 19 local jobs, which is a huge bonus in this difficult time.”

About the Green Recovery Challenge Fund

Defra announced grants between £62,000 and £3.8 million to help create and retain thousands of green jobs. The projects, spread across England, will see trees planted – 800,000 in total – and protected landscapes and damaged habitats such as moorlands, wetlands and forests restored, alongside wider conservation work. The projects will also support environmental education and connecting people with green spaces.

The Green Recovery Challenge Fund is a key part of Prime Minister’s 10 Point Plan to kick-start nature recovery and tackle climate change. The fund is being delivered by the National Lottery Heritage Fund in partnership with Natural England and the Environment Agency.

Environment Minister, Rebecca Pow saidThese projects will drive forward work across England to restore and transform our landscapes, boost nature and create green jobs, and will be a vital part of helping us to build back greener from coronavirus.

“I look forward to working with environmental organisations as these projects help address the twin challenges of biodiversity loss and climate change, while creating and retaining jobs as part of the green recovery.”

Ros Kerslake, Chief Executive, National Lottery Heritage Fund said “Supporting our natural environment is one of the most valuable things we can do right now. All these projects are of huge benefit to our beautiful countryside and wildlife, but will also support jobs, health and wellbeing, which are vitally important as we begin to emerge from the coronavirus crisis.”

The government’s forthcoming Environment Bill puts the environment at the centre of policy making to ensure that we have a cleaner, greener and more resilient country for the next generation. The fund is supporting a range of nature conservation and recovery and nature-based solutions projects, which will contribute towards government’s wider 25 Year Environment Plan commitments, including commitments to increase tree-planting across the UK to 30,000 hectares per year by 2025.