Biodiversity is a fundamental element of natural beauty. Dorset National Landscape’s wealth of wildlife, from the common and widespread to the globally rare, is one of the outstanding qualities that underpin its designation.

Dorset is particularly rich in some habitats and species. For example, lowland heathland and the characteristic species associated with it form a recognisable landscape across southern England, but in Dorset there is a concentration of species such as sand lizards and smooth snakes that do not occur in such numbers anywhere else in the country.

Wild Purbeck Partnership

The Wild Purbeck Partnership was set up to work together to conserve and enhance these valuable habitats at a landscape scale. It is made up of a number of different conservation, landowning, governmental and local government organisations. It is managed by the Dorset National Landscape and meets three times a year and has achieved real successes since it formed.

In November 2020, the Wild Purbeck Partnership was delighted to receive the Green Recovery Challenge Fund grant of £549,900. Through an active partnership led by the Dorset National Landscape team, the grant helped to create a single grazing unit of 1,370 ha lowland heathland mosaic on the western part of the Purbeck Heaths National Nature Reserve (NNR) for grazing by cattle, ponies and pigs.

Project outcomes:

  • 7km internal boundary fencing was removed and a new, 19.9km pig proof perimeter fence was erected, 7 new cattle grids and bypass gates were installed and parking areas improved.
  • A long term ecological monitoring plan has been devised, including the use of GPS collars for cattle, trail cameras across the unit and surveys.
  • Positive visitor management encouraged through a new Sustainable Tourism Plan, devised with local stakeholders, and the creation of a digital information hub, leaflet and map.
  • New interpretation and signage installed across key sites within the NNR.

Find out more about this ambitious landscape scale grazing unit and watch the film below to get a greater understanding of how nature will benefit from these interventions.

Arne (c) Sue Macpherson

Purbeck Heaths National Nature Reserve

Purbeck is one of the most wildlife rich places in the UK and has gained further recognition with the declaration of the new Purbeck Heaths National Nature Reserve (NNR).

The new NNR covers 3,331 hectares and and is now the largest area of lowland heath managed as a single nature reserve in England.

Explore the Purbeck Heaths NNR

The best way to explore and learn about this special landscape is to visit the Purbeck Heaths NNR website.

Here you will find information on:

  • Where to go, including 6 local visitor hubs, walking and cycling routes in the area
  • An interactive visitor map (downloadable)
  • Information on priority habitats and the special and rare species that live here (reptiles, birds, bats, insects & plants)
  • The history and heritage of the NNR
  • NNR partner information and tenure map
  • Purbeck Heaths Sustainable Tourism Plan

Wytch Farm Landscape and Access Enhancement Fund

One of the key ways in which Wild Purbeck projects will continue to be delivered is through the Wytch Farm Landscape and Access Enhancement Fund. Watch this short film as an introduction and follow link below for further information.

Other Wild Purbeck work

Other projects are worked up by partners to contribute to the main areas of work by the Wild Purbeck partnership which are:

  1. To protect the “crown jewels” –high quality habitat – through sustainable management.
  2. Heathland and woodland – the right trees in the right place. To ensure that high quality heathland restoration continues and identify opportunities for new woodland planting.
  3. Minerals – restoration of current and future mineral sites. To take the best opportunities to enable appropriate restoration for wildlife, people and businesses to deliver more, bigger, better, joined up sites.
  4. Sea level rise and climate change – proactively planning for the changes resulting from climate change and predictions of sea level rise.
  5. People in Purbeck – to ensure people enjoy Wild Purbeck whilst understanding its importance and need for sustainable management.

Wild Purbeck Nature Improvement Area

Wild Purbeck Nature Improvement Area (NIA) ran from March 2012 to April 2015, a three year project delivering large scale initiatives in the landscape of Dorset to improve ecological connectivity and improve biodiversity. You can read the report here

Wild Purbeck was one of 12 NIA’sacross the country and covers around 46,000 hectares, a national booklet has been produced highlighting some of the work that has been delivered across the country.

End of Project Reporting

The project has produced many reports and guidance documents, most of which can be found in the relevant project pages, we have also produced an end of project report “Wild Purbeck 2012-2015” which has more information on the themes, project and achievements of Wild Purbeck. Defra’s national report, summarising the achievements of the 12 initial NIAs, is available here

The Wild Purbeck NIA (WPNIA) partnership group is made up of a number of different organisations both supporting and delivering projects. This project is supported by Government through Defra, DCLG, Environment Agency (EA), Forestry Commission (FC) and Natural England (NE)

As part of the NIA programme, the 12 initial NIAs were required to undertake monitoring and evaluation (M&E) of their projects. Progress Report from this monitoring can be found here and present the results of the evaluation of the NIAs across the three years.
Wild Purbeck NIA has set the wheels in motion where by 2020:

  • the area’s natural assets are richer and more resilient to changes
  • there is more natural function in the landscape – for example rivers are re-connected with their flood plain and catchment
  • plans are in place to enable people and wildlife to adapt to sea level rise around Poole Harbour
  • the landscape contributes more strongly to the local economy, particularly around sustainable tourism and products from land and sea; those industries also contribute strongly to that landscape
  • communities and businesses from both within and outside the area understand the importance their contributions make
  • a landscape where the connections between the natural world and human activity are understood and celebrated.


  • Over 13% of the population of Purbeck has been engaged in community, education or other NIA activity
  • 124 Ha land has been purchased and safeguarded for the future
  • 467 Ha of heathland restored or managed
  • Over 20,000 hours volunteer time across the NIA

The NIA has enabled partners to lever in funding they would otherwise not have been able to access.


  • The opportunity to enthuse local people is there, providing you can engage with topics that interest them
  • The importance of embedding NIA work within existing organisations to provide a long term legacy
  • The need to be flexible and have worked up projects with different budgets, should unforeseen underspend occur in existing projects, or additional funding become available (as occurred in year 2)