At a liaison meeting in September '97 we offered space in
our newsletter to both the National
Trust and English Nature. Here's English Nature's contribution:
Information - Studland Heath National Nature Reserve
VITAL conservation work is being carried out at Studland Heath National
Nature Reserve to ensure the survival of its heathland and unique wildlife.
A staggering 82% of the heathland area that existed in 1800 has now gone and
only about 36,000 hectares of heathland remain in England. Today the loss of
heathland to other land uses has largely stopped and the biggest threat to our
remaining heathland heritage is lack of management. The National Trust, the
landowners of Studland Heath and English Nature, the organisation which cares
for the 633 hectares of land, work hard to ensure a living part of our nation's
history is not lost forever.
At Studland, the heath has been a National Nature Reserve since 1962. It is
one of the most important sites for nature conservation in England and is also
of international importance for its dune, dry and wet heath and mire habitats
and for several bird species. All six British reptiles occur on the reserve.
Until this century heathland such as that at Studland played a key part in
the rural economy. In Dorset we know that it has sustained the lives of local
people for more than 2,000 years - providing grazing for livestock and fuel from
turf cutting, wood and furze.
These activities shaped and maintained the great heath over the centuries
with its distinctive open landscape and very special wildlife. Now that the need
to live off the heath has gone, the traditional uses have stopped. At the same
time huge plantations of conifers and ornamental rhododendrons have been
introduced and both can spread quickly from seed onto open heathland, forming
dense thickets and killing the heather and its wildlife.
To replace the lost traditional uses that kept the heath open and to tackle
invasive pine and scrub, conservation management must tackle a backlog of tree
and scrub removal. The aim is to strike a balance more in favour of the
internationally rare open heathland. Blocks of gorse are burned on a rotation as
the dense thickets it forms are a fire hazard whilst the young compact bushes
that re-grow are most valued by the Dartford Warbler and Stonechat as nest
Controlled burning can be a useful management aid when carefully used in
winter but the very damaging and intense fires of summer cause long term harm
both to the heathland and to species such as sand lizards. A fire prevention
strategy is part of the management of all heathland sites and this includes fire
breaks, emergency water supplies and good liaison with the fire brigade.
Studland is an especially vulnerable site because the heath has more than one
million visitors a year. There have been very serious big summer fires which
have devastated heathland and its wildlife. In 1976 over 90% of Hartland Moor
was burnt by one fire.
A place for people too
Encouraging visitors to experience their natural heritage is an important
part of managing a reserve. English Nature and the National Trust provide and
care for paths and nature trails. These help visitors and minimise damage and
disturbance to wildlife.
For more detailed information please contact English Nature for a leaflet.
English Nature is the statutory adviser to the Government on
nature conservation in England and promotes the conservation of England's
wildlife and natural features. Its Dorset office is at Slepe Farm, Arne, Wareham
BH20 5BN (tel. 01929 556688)
Howard Avery, Site Manager
And there you have it. Your comments will be more than welcome - if you write
direct to English Nature or the National Trust please send a copy of your
letter, and any reply, to the Secretary; a selection will appear in the June '98
edition of The Bare Essentials (TBE6).
For our part, we feel that, given the population explosion since 1800 and the
shift from an agrarian economy to an industrial system and most recently to a
service industry dominated economy, the loss of 82% of the 1800 heathland is
We note with interest English Nature's condemnation of rhododendrons: we
heartily agree that they are a flaming nuisance, and trust that EN will
enthusiastically embrace our proposed alternative route for Heather Walk
involving, as it does, the removal of a large swathe of these invasive and
we understand perfectly the value of rotational burning of gorse, we are at a
loss to understand the conservation value of piling gorse in a clear, clean
sandy hollow, setting fire to it there, and then throwing glass bottles into the
fire. The only effect of this is to make the hollow uninhabitable, although the
molten glass does produce some interesting light effects from the sunlight
(After taking some photographs of this particular act of vandalism, SUN members
cleared all the broken and melted glass, although we were unable to separate all
the ash from the sand and will have to rely on the winter rains to wash it out
and leave the hollow once again secluded and habitable. That should please the
permanent night shift worker, not a SUN member - yet - who until last year used
the hollow to sleep and sunbathe in during the summer.)