Public eyes and ears needed to keep heathland safe

Dorset Wildlife Trust (DWT) is asking for help from members of the public to ensure the continued protection of heathland and the wildlife habitats in it, by joining the ‘Heathwatch’ scheme.

Heathwatch was set up in consultation with Dorset Police, Dorset Fire and Rescue and the Urban Heaths partnership following the tragic fire on Upton Heath in 2011.  The project asks the public who regularly access the heath to report incidents such as fires or antisocial behaviour.

Initially Heathwatch was limited to Upton Heath, but it is now being extended to other heathland sites in The Great Heath area.  This includes Ferndown Common, Parley Common, Dunyeat’s Hill, Lytchett Bay, Corft Hills, Rushcombe Heath, Canford Heath, Alder Hills, Ham Common, Bourne Valley, Talbot Heath and Sopley Common.

DWT’s Great Heath Conservation Officer, Sally Wright, said “This volunteer based project relies on the eyes and ears of local people who regularly use the heath.  Part of The Great Heath project is to protect the newly acquired nationally and internationally important heathlands, which we do through conservation, interpretation, education and patrolling the heaths.  Upton Heath has had huge success from the Heathwatch initiative, and now we want to spread this out to all The Great Heath sites.”

People who sign up to the scheme are encouraged not to confront antisocial behaviour, but to report it – either to DWT on 01202 692033 or if required, to Crimestoppers on 101 or 01202 222222.  Wallet sized cards with this information will be provided.  Volunteers will also receive an enews bulletin every month with general news from the heath and details about events.

To find out more about the project, there will be a Heathwatch information evening at Hamworthy Fire station on Saturday 18th July from 3pm-5pm.  To reserve your place, contact Sally Wright on swright@dorsetwildlifetrust.org.uk or phone 01202 692033.  Find out more about heathland in the Poole area: https://www.facebook.com/poolesheathlands