Week-long eco festival across Purbeck gets off to a flying start

The Planet Purbeck Festival aimed at inspiring the local community to enhance and protect our natural environment got off to a great start with a very special guest flying in for the occasion – a once extinct white-tailed sea eagle!

The species died out in the UK during the early 20th century due to illegal killing but was recently reintroduced to the Isle of Wight.

It has now been officially identified for the first time at RSPB Arne, which could be the start of the white-tailed sea eagle once again becoming a Purbeck resident.

White tailed eagle at Arne
Pete Christie

The white-tailed sea eagle was first spotted at Arne on Saturday 18th September 2021 and this image was captured by Swanage resident, Pete Christie on the following Monday

A celebration of our local environment

And what better week to fly in, than the week of the Planet Purbeck Festival – a celebration of our local environment, which is taking place from Monday 20th to Sunday 26th September 2021.

There’s more than 200 events run by about 70 individuals or organisations from Swanage to Wareham and the villages in between.

It culminates over the weekend with children’s events, films and guest speakers at The Mowlem. There’s also an art auction to raise funds for future environmental projects.

Boat trip in Wareham as part of Planet Purbeck Festival
Planet Purbeck

Free wildlife-spotting trip staged by Wareham Boat Hire sets off along the River Frome from Wareham Quay

Rob Waitt

Founder of Planet Purbeck, Rob Waitt

Help change things for the better

The founder of Planet Purbeck, Rob Waitt, who lives in Swanage explained how the environmental campaign group got started:

“When my son was born five years ago, it really made me think about the environment and what his future would be like. It made me spring out of my armchair and into action to help change things for the better and focus on the things I could influence.

“I started turning up at environmental groups – there’s quite a few across Purbeck – but while there were lots of good people involved, I was finding myself in chilly church halls and turnout was low.

Sustainable Wareham hub at Planet Purbeck Festival
Planet Purbeck

Sustainable Wareham team at Not Just Sundaes cafe in Wareham, the week-long hub for festival activities in Wareham

Moth identification at Durlston as part of Planet Purbeck Festival
Dean Storer

Senior ranger at Durlston Country Park, Katie Black leads a session on identifying moths

Planet Purbeck founded in 2020

Rob then had the idea of creating Planet Purbeck, which he founded in 2020 and the idea for a festival developed from there. He said:

“We’re connecting all the dots and bringing all the smaller groups together across Purbeck. Everyone’s welcome – we’ve encouraged everyone round the table. I think it’s important to get the culture right – culture always trumps strategy. We’re super open and super transparent.”

“Now we’re bring our message to people in our community – hence the idea of a festival where people of all ages like to hang out. To have fun while at the same time say, by the way, we really need to protect and enhance our local environment.”

Heidi Florence and Rob Waitt on Swanage Downs at Planet Purbeck Festival

Planet Purbeck: Heidi Florence is on the media team and Rob Waitt is part of the core team and events

Talbot Village Trust donated £18,000

The success of the group, which now has hundreds of members, has now resulted in other organisations coming forward to back its projects. The Talbot Village Trust, which gives grants to community projects, donated £18,000 to Planet Purbeck to support the festival.

Rob added:

“This money has made a real difference to us and we’re really grateful, as it’s made the organisation more sustainable.

“We’ve been able to pay some people for their time, pay for our marketing like our banners, as well as insurance and necessary things like that. Most importantly though, it’s enabled most of the events this week to be free to attend.”

Tour of Swanage Downs as part of Planet Purbeck Festival

An event on Swanage Downs led by Sarah Spurling from Sustainable Swanage

Guided tour of Swanage Downs

One of the first events of the festival was a guided tour of Swanage Downs by Sarah Spurling from Sustainable Swanage, where she explained the ideas for the future management for the Downs to increase its biodiversity and boost wildlife. Sarah said:

“The idea of a festival is a really great way to connect all our environmental groups. We help each other by sharing ideas and inspiring one another – we’re all working towards the same thing.

“Hopefully, this is the first of many days when we can get out and engage with the community.”

Sustainable Swanage tent at Planet Purbeck Festival

Starting the conversation

“People hate to be told what to do or think

So what are the main objectives for Planet Purbeck and for Rob for the future? He said:

“We’d like to see more people sign up to local environmental groups and get involved. It would be good for us in Purbeck to become leaders in renewable energy – to switch from fossil fuels to renewables.

“Also to drastically reduce our dependence on cars and incentivise us to walk, cycle and use buses, and of course to reduce litter and get rid of single use plastic.

“But people hate to be told what to do or think, so it’s just about starting the conversation and hopefully that’s what this festival is about – provoking the conversation. And in the future, each year, we can build on that momentum.”

Further information

  • The Planet Purbeck Festival timetable of events is on its website
  • More about the art auction on Saturday 25th September 2021, to raise vital funds, is also on the website

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