Dorset Wildlife Trust

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The Dorset Wildlife Trust (DWT) is a wildlife trust covering the county of Dorset, United Kingdom. The trust was originally founded in 1961 to protect and conserve the wildlife and natural habitats of the county. The trust is headquartered at Brooklands Farm, just north of Dorchester. DWT has 26,000 members, has some 65 staff, over 850 active volunteers, and runs 45 nature reserves totalling over 12 square kilometres, which include 25 sites of special scientific interest.

Most of the reserves are owned by the trust, but some are also leased under agreements with landowners. The reserves represent 1,300 hectares of prime habitat managed for the benefit of wildlife and supporting local and regional biodiversity. The trust's diverse collection of reserves reflect the natural diversity of the geologically and habitat rich southern English county of Dorset. The wide variety of landscapes includes chalk grasslands, ancient meadows, prime woodland, internationally important rare heathland, valuable wetlands, and a section of the World Heritage listed Jurassic Coast. According to the trust, more than 200,000 visitors visit their reserves each year.

The trust currently also has seven wildlife education and outreach centres in the county:-

  • Fine Foundation Marine Centre, Kimmeridge,
  • The Kingcombe Centre, Lower Kingcombe, Toller Porcorum
  • Lorton Meadows Conservation Centre, Weymouth,
  • The Villa Wildlife Centre, Brownsea Island
  • Urban Wildlife Centre, Corfe Mullen, Poole
  • Fine Foundation Chesil Beach Centre, Portland and
  • Brooklands Farm itself.

The conservation, education, and community partnership work of the Dorset Wildlife Trust extends beyond the designated nature reserves. DWT also runs a series of special projects headed by conservation staff working with groups of volunteer members and supporter groups throughout the county. They are involved in monitoring and improving habitats for wildlife not only in the open countryside, rivers and coastal waters but also in urban and suburban environments, churchyards, and roadside verges.

A core aim of the trust, in conjunction with wildlife trusts throughout Britain, is actively to promote and set up living landscapes, wildlife corridors, nectar-rich links, etc.

In 2014 DWT led the development of The Great Heath Living Landscape project,[1] a partnership involving Borough of Poole, The Erica Trust, Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (ARC), Poole Harbour Commissioners and Dorset County Council. The project was initiated to enable the purchase of almost 1500 acres of heathland and other habitats from Canford Estate. During its development phase the project expanded to include a 3-year access and engagement programme and a suite of sites owned and managed by partners. The project was funded by a grant of £2.7m from the Heritage Lottery Fund [2] and a further £2.1m from partners, other fundings bodies and through community fundraising.


Mary Bonham-Christie owned Brownsea Island in Poole Harbour, Dorset, and being a recluse she had forbidden access to the Island for many years. In effect, the island had been abandoned to Nature. In April 1961, Bonham-Christie died. This was the trigger that set in motion moves to "rescue" Brownsea Island, and preserve it "for the Nation" as a wildlife reserve. At the same time the Dorset Wildlife Trust was being formed with an inaugural meeting in March 1961. The island was handed over to HM Treasury in lieu of death duties, and HM Treasury then came to dispose of this asset. The Dorset Wildlife Trust was in no position to pay the £100,000 asking price. However, an arrangement was made between The National Trust, the Dorset Wildlife Trust, The Boy Scouts Association and The John Lewis Partnership whereby each would provide £25,000 to The National Trust, who would then buy the island, with the other three parties as "partners", each taking care of their own interests. This partnership has stood the test of time.


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