Purbeck Heaths Grazing Unit

Working together to help Purbeck’s nature, communities, and tourism thrive in harmony through the formation of a single grazing unit in the area between Stoborough, Corfe Castle and Arne near Wareham.

Ponies on heath (c) Mark Singleton
Mangolitza pig (c) Terry Bagley / National Trust
  • In 2020 the Purbeck Heaths landscape was declared a Super National Nature Reserve (NNR)
  • Over the last year a partnership between RSPB, National Trust, Natural England, and Dorset National Landscape has created a single grazing unit on the western part of the Super NNR. This allows for wilder grazing and the introduction of pigs, all of which will help create more homes for Purbeck’s special wildlife.
  • The partnership has also launched a Sustainable Tourism Plan, created with and for local landowners, businesses, and communities.
  • The whole project has been funded by Defra’s Green Recovery Fund and the Wytch Farm Landscape and Access Enhancement Fund.

This month has seen the culmination of an intense period of work across the Purbeck Heaths landscape. This ‘super’ national nature reserve was declared in 2020, bringing together land stretching from Gold Point at the top of the Arne peninsular to the A351, across to the shores of Studland and out to Brownsea Island.

Over the past year a partnership between RSPB, National Trust (NT), Natural England NE), and Dorset National Landscape has taken down the fences across their boundaries to create a large area where cows, ponies, and pigs will be free-roaming. This project has been funded by Defra’s Green Recovery Fund and the Wytch Farm Landscape and Access Enhancement Fund.

Allowing nature to survive and thrive

The grazing unit allows for wilder grazing and the introduction of pigs. The grazing, browsing, trampling, digging and wallowing from these animals will provide the perfect homes for some of the rarest, bare-ground loving heathland wildlife in Purbeck.

To create this single grazing unit a new perimeter fence and cattle grids have been installed. A substantial amount of fencing between RSPB Arne, NT Hartland Moor and NE Stoborough heaths has also been removed. Animals will be out on the new grazing unit this spring.

Cattle grazing heath (c) Mark Singleton

Peter Robertson, RSPB Dorset Senior Sites Manager, said: “The grazing unit project has been a real team effort across the landscape of communities, businesses and organisations that live and work within or alongside the Dorset heaths. We’re proud of making this happen, during an unpredictable year where everyone has been impacted by Covid and we have welcomed more visitors than ever before to Purbeck.”

The project team has also been working with partners and stakeholders across the area to develop a Sustainable Tourism Plan and information including signs, a leaflet, and a new website, launched at RSPB Arne in March. Please visit here for more information: purbeckheaths.org.uk

Peter continues: “We’ve also started to pull together projects that will make tourism in Purbeck more sustainable. We want to reduce the negative impacts of tourism on the local community and nature, increase the positive impact that a visit to Purbeck has on the individual, and ensure that local businesses can continue to thrive. None of this is simple or easy, but we feel that bringing people together as one landscape gives us the best chance of succeeding.”

View over Slepe Heath from Arne (c) Jon Bish

Tom Munro, Dorset National Landscape Team Leader and chair of the Purbeck Heaths NNR partnership, reflected: “The project aimed to make the heaths function more naturally, enhancing their natural value, while connecting them to the local community, local tourism businesses and those that come to experience them from further afield. This plan was created in partnership with the interests of people, place and economy represented; it is a significant step forward in laying a foundation for a truly sustainable way to enable millions of people to experience the captivating wildness of the Purbeck Heaths.”

Ross Kempson of Norden-based Cyclexperience, one of the stakeholders engaged in the development of the Sustainable Tourism Plan, said: “It has been so useful meeting people from other local businesses as part of these networking events and actually having time to sit down and share visions and goals with likeminded people. I’m super excited at the prospect of being able to contribute to a targeted plan and build a framework for tourism which will both help the environment and our economy and hopefully we can end up with a Purbeck brand which will gather momentum and create the sort of success where the sum of the parts (ie businesses, organisations and the natural environment) will be greater than that of the whole. We’re all aware that this is the start of a process of change, as individuals, as organisations and as a landscape.”

Cattle Grazing on heathland at RSPB Arne (c) RSPB

Interested in finding out more?

Discover all about the Purbeck Heaths Grazing Unit project.