A £2.7million boost towards buying land comprising internationally important habitats has delighted Dorset Wildlife Trust.
The grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund goes towards the £4.7m Great Living Landscape appeal, one of the largest conservation projects in the UK.
It aims to secure the protection and management of almost 1,500 acres of wildlife rich heathland, grassland, woods and wetland for the benefit of residents and wildlife in Poole, Bournemouth, Christchurch and east Dorset.
The grant will enable the purchase of important habitats at Holes Bay and Lytchett Bay in Poole Harbour and heathlands at Parley Common, Dunyeats Hill and Upton Heath.
The project aims to link two outstanding areas of natural heritage, the New Forest National Park and the Wild Purbeck Nature Improvement Area, connecting dozens of sites across the area.
“Buying this land from the Canford Estate was a once in a lifetime opportunity, and thanks to the HLF funding, generous donations from the public, local businesses and funding from our partners, we can now develop an urban Living Landscape which is rich in wildlife, highly valued, enjoyed and nurtured by people,” said Brian Bleese, DWT director of operations.
Heathland sites such as Upton Heath provide a home for many rare and threatened species including the Dartford Warbler, now thriving after numbers plummeted to 11 breeding pairs nationally in the 1960s, and all six UK reptiles including the nationally rare smooth snake and sand lizard.
However DWT still needs to raise £50,000 by the end of March to match the grant and secure the heath for generations to come. For more information and to donate go to dorsetwildlifetrust.org.uk/the_great_heath