The Purbeck Heaths are nationally and internationally important for rare and threatened wildlife. To ensure that the amazing diversity of wildlife that inhabits the heaths can not only survive but thrive, a partnership of the RSPB, National Trust, Natural England and Dorset National Landscape have expanded the naturalised grazing system at National Trust’s Hartland Moor and Natural England’s Stoborough Heath to encompass RSPB Arne.

The project has created a “mini New Forest” in the area between Stoborough, Corfe Castle and Arne near Wareham, with cattle, ponies and pigs roaming across an area of 1370 ha at the heart of the Purbeck Heaths National Nature Reserve.

Enabling nature to survive and thrive

Wilder grazing by free ranging cattle, ponies and pigs will more naturalistically drive dynamic changes to the heathland/woodland environment, enhancing the micro-habitats and niches within the land, on which many rare and threatened species depend.

These include species such as Purbeck Mason Wasp, Heath Bee-fly and Woodlark.

Project outcomes

  • 7km internal boundary fencing was removed and a new, 19.9km pig proof perimeter fence was erected. New field gates installed
  • 7 new cattle grids and associated bypass gates installed, 2 householder grids installed
  • Internal boundary ditching cleared
  • 8km roadside ditch and bank works undertaken
  • Parking areas improved
  • Graziers licences, operational protocol and all legal compliance completed
  • Long term ecological monitoring plan devised, including the use of GPS collars for cattle, trail cameras across the unit and surveys
  •  Sustainable Tourism Plan devised with local stakeholders
  • Creation of a digital information hub, leaflet and map.
  • New interpretation and signage installed across key sites within the NNR

Read the Project Evaluation report here

Project evolution

See how the project unfolded by clicking on the updates below

View over Slepe Heath from Arne (c) Jon Bish

What is the Purbeck Heaths National Nature Reserve?

The Purbeck Heaths National Nature Reserve was declared in February 2020. It’s one of the most wildlife rich places in the UK and is now the largest area of lowland heath managed as a single nature reserve in England.

Ponies on heath (c) Mark Singleton

Further information

For more information on this project please contact Kate Townsend, Project Support Officer.