Write up - 2012 - Dorset Wildlife Trust

A Visit to Kingcombe Meadows

The speaker at the Group’s social meeting, held on 15 May, was Brian Bleese the Director of Operations at the Dorset Wildlife Trust. Brian started his presentation by outlining the purpose and work of the Trust.

He explained that Dorset Wildlife Trust is the largest conservation charity in Dorset and are part of The Wildlife Trusts Partnership, a nationwide network of 47 local Wildlife Trusts working for an environment rich in wildlife for everyone. DWT was founded in 1961, as a charity to promote nature conservation through the study, monitoring and management of nature reserves. Since then their work has extended to influencing others who affect our wildlife and to promote a better understanding and appreciation of wildlife by the public.

They offer advice to landowners and managers; stand up for wildlife in the fight to prevent inappropriate development; and work to influence decision-makers right up to central government level.

We learnt that Dorset is one of the richest counties for wildlife in England but has suffered many losses in the last 50 years as a result of human activity or neglect.  Dorset’s world renowned geology is reflected in its marine biodiversity, with habitats ranging from tide-swept offshore reefs to sheltered saline lagoons.  Many south-western marine species reach their easterly limits in Dorset’s waters.  Dorset’s wildlife still faces threats from the increasing pressures for development.  Demand for housing is again increasing, putting at risk areas where wildlife flourishes.  In the wider countryside we can expect changes in agricultural policy to create more opportunities and challenges for conservation management.  Longer term the impact of climate change on habitats and species could also be very significant, and measures must be taken to adapt to this change and mitigate the consequences.

Further details of the Trust’s activities, their reserves and wildlife centres, together with the courses and information they offer to the public can be found on their web site http://www.dorsetwildlifetrust.org.uk.

Following Brian’s excellent presentation we decided to visit Kingcombe Meadows nature reserve which is in West Dorset, just to the west of Maiden Newton. This nature reserve of about 450 acres is situated in an area of beautiful landscape and has a patchwork of field shapes, all pasture or hay meadow and is farmed by the Trust in a traditional way.

Following coffee at the visitor centre and looking at all the information we were provided by the warden we decided to explore the northern fields nature walk. This is one of the steepest parts of the reserve and has interesting plant and animal life. The Warden briefed us on the location of the plants and flowers we were keen on finding.

Our immediate thoughts were that this was an old landscape, which took me back to when I was growing up in the 1950s, that had been largely unaffected by the changes to the countryside that accompanies modern agricultural methods. At the time of our visit in late May the fields were full of meadow flowers and clovers and there were lots of butterflies and birds in this habitat. The hedges were mostly blackthorn and hazel but there were also plenty of larger trees, ash and oaks, which we were told helps to support the wildlife.

The River Hooke, a tributary of the Frome, runs through the reserve providing water for the cows and other animals.

We were also interested in finding some of the rarer wild flowers – we had found some early purple orchids early in our walk and we went to the marsh areas looking for the marsh orchid, bog pimpernel and the ragged robin, which we hadn’t seen since the 1950s. We found lots of these in the area marked as Mary’s Well withy bed on the map.

We really enjoyed our visit to the reserve, the information provided by the Trust and the food we had for a late lunch. We plan to visit Kingcombe again in the autumn and possibly some of the coastal reserves during the summer.

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