Work to regenerate Wareham Forest from the devastation of last year’s fire is now underway, nearly a year since the blaze, following a successful fundraising appeal.
Forestry England launched the fundraiser last year after the forest fire, which started on Monday 18th May 2020. The blaze is believed to have been caused by a disposable barbecue or a camp fire, and it ravaged woodlands and heathlands the size of 350 football pitches.
Fighting the fire in May 2020
Crew from Swanage Fire Station
Dozens of firefighters worked day and night to tackle the blaze, including crew from Swanage Fire Station.
The restoration work required will include creating breeding sites for reptiles, constructing bat boxes and other nests. Around 200 baby sand lizards have already been released in a nearby forest to help boost the overall numbers of this incredibly rare species and over-time link up different populations.
Forestry England will also be replanting many trees across the forest but will be considering carefully where they are located. Over the last decade or so there has been a gradually return of several areas of Wareham Forest to heathland. Some of the areas badly affected by the fire will not be replanted with trees but returned to heath, accelerating this process.
The fundraiser brought in more than £45,000 with the help of parcel delivery company DPD and numerous local volunteers. Among the groups raising money for the appeal was the Broadstone Art Society, which raised £395 through an online art exhibition during October 2020.
May 2020 shortly after the fire
May 2021 – a year after the fire, grass and wild plants are starting to regrow through the ash
Site of Special Scientific Interest
Wareham Forest is a major wildlife hub, featuring all six of the UK’s native reptiles including the endangered smooth snake and sand lizard. It is one of the few places in the country where all six can be found.
The forest is listed as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), which marks it out for conservation.
May 2021 and nature is starting to recover
“Restoring this special place”
Bruce Rothnie, forest management director of south forest district for Forestry England said:
“It is just fantastic to now be restoring this special place. The fire last year was devastating, destroying so much of this landscape and the wildlife that call it home. The response to our appeal has been overwhelming and we want to say a huge thank you to everyone who got involved.”
“The donation from DPD’s Eco Fund is making a huge difference to how much work we are able to carry out and enabling us to put in place a range of measures to help protect Wareham Forest from fires in the future. When conditions allow, we look forward to DPD’s staff visiting the Forest to see the impact their support is having and get involved in some practical restoration projects.”
New signs have been installed to ensure that everyone knows what to do if they see a fire
To find out more about the Wareham Forest restoration project, visit the Forestry England website.