The internationally important lowland heathland landscape of the South Purbeck Heaths, similar to many other heathland landscapes around the Poole Basin, is a complex and diverse mosaic of open dry and wet heath and wooded scrubby heath.
The internationally important lowland heathland landscape of the South Purbeck Heaths, similar to many other heathland landscapes around the Poole Basin, is a complex and diverse mosaic of open dry and wet heath and wooded scrubby heath. A range of land uses affect condition, with the fragile heaths under constant pressures. During the twentieth century a notable fragmentation of heathlands occurred, particularly due to the introduction of conifer plantations. More recently attention has been paid to projects that have delivered heathland restoration. A significant, although reduced, extent of forestry plantation remains, along with a variety of other land uses including mineral extraction and planned farms. The wild appearance of the open heathlands has been well document in Thomas Hardy’s writings.
- Sea level rise along the coast is threatening valued habitats and residential and visitor-based development.
- Ongoing mineral workings, notably for nationally significant reserves of Ball Clay.
- Intensive forestry leading to defragmentation of heathland habitats and a reduction in perceived wildness and remoteness. Recent years have seen a partial reversal of these impacts following the implementation of heathland restoration projects.
- Ongoing oil extraction activities have resulted in the ongoing need to maintain a network of high specification tracks in some areas, as well as a degree of screening from forestry plantation trees. Such impacts should be offset through the delivery of funded landscape enhancement initiatives, secured though planning agreements.
- There is evidence of pressure for built development along major transport corridors.
- Some conversion from heathland and grassland to intensive arable production.
- The loss of features such as hedgerows, combined with inconsistent field boundary management has led to a reduction in the visual integrity of the landscape.
- Intensive farming practices and more intensive grassland management has resulted in changes in the visual character of the landscape as well as a decline in farmland birds.
- The proximity to populations of surrounding towns could result in erosion by walkers and pressure for visitor facilities in the open landscape.
- Continued visitor pressure leading to an increase the proliferation of signage and traffic calming schemes.
- Scrub encroachment along roadsides obscures open views to the surrounding heathlands.