My name is Dale Garwood and I manage the HEDGE Project, responsible for the management of a series of heathland areas across East Dorset to protect their biodiversity and maintain the sites for public enjoyment. All of our areas are SSSIs, with a large number of listed species present and all have full public access. The most important of our sites is at Whitesheets, part of the wider Holt & West Moors Heathland SSSI. The site at Whitesheets SSSI is 80 Hectares of mixed open heathland with patches of Forestry Commission Woodland sitting immediately to the South of Holt Heath SSSI and immediately to the North of the woodland area that you help to maintain along part of Uddens Water.
I attach a map so that you can see the locations of our sites.
We carry out the full range of countryside management functions on our SSSI sites, but due to the limited funding provided by Natural England, just like everyone else who manages heathland areas, we are heavily reliant on our Volunteer Supporters to help us make proper headway against the relentless march of nature in order to keep the site in good condition for the rare wildlife. We do large scale gardening with attitude!
For the last 2 years we have run a very successful local Wednesday Volunteer Group meeting at 0930hrs every Wednesday at the Forestry Commission Car Park at the NW end of the Whitesheets SSSI site. The start of the new heathland working season in early September is an important time for us and we have a small core of regular group members, a larger group of occasional helpers and a few one-time visitors. Typically we have 8-10 helpers on any particular day which is a nice number of people and we are very sociable, talking about all sorts of nonsense as we work. Our group assists with a range of scrub clearance work across the Whitesheets SSSI site and some of our volunteers also help with other aspects of the project. Throughout the Autumn we have regular bonfires to dispose of our scrub cuttings and we provide a bonfire lunch to our volunteers on those days. On our 1st bonfire of this season we will be cooking steak baguettes using beef from our own herd of native breed cattle and having a fun wildflower spelling competition using Alphabetti-Spaghetti. We always provide tea/coffee and home made cakes on our non-bonfire days. We run a series of educational briefings during each working day to inform our volunteer supporters about various aspects of countryside management and a Facebook Page helps to keep all of our supporters abreast of events on the ground throughout the year (see The HEDGE Project). Some of our longer term helpers have also got involved helping out with our livestock that graze across our areas and onto Holt Heath and some also carry out site fence/gate inspections and related tasks.
Our site at Whitesheets SSSI and your Uddens Water/Cannon Hill working areas don't directly overlap but they are very close and the heathland flora / fauna needs your help to thrive. If anyone would like to attend one of our Wednesday sessions or is interested in knowing more, do contact me by phone, email or message me via our Facebook page using the details below. Do come along whether it is for one session or one season or just to meet with the rest of our members before you decide to commit.
If you do decide to give our group a try, I look forward to meeting with some of you over the next few weeks.
HEDGE Project Manager
Tel 07810 328 157
Facebook - The HEDGE Project