The National Trust has purchased a 350 acre farm – one of the last along the Purbeck coastline in private ownership – with the aim of returning the fields to wildlife-friendly grassland and protecting the rare bats that roost in the Winspit caves.
Weston Farm at Worth Matravers in Dorset, extends from the village down to the Purbeck coastline, including Winspit Quarry. To the east, it adjoins the land already owned by the National Trust which includes Dancing Ledge.
From Winspit looking east towards Durlston Head, along the Jurassic Coast
Spectacular stretch of the Jurassic Coast
The National Trust says that buying the land along this spectacular stretch of the Jurassic Coast, will enable it to protect the area for both nature and future generations.
The plan is to allow the farm fields to return to nature, allowing species-rich grasslands, wildflower meadows, scrub and woodland to emerge.
The ancient ‘strip lynchet’ terraced fields – a medieval way of farming – will continue to be protected. While across the modern farmland there’ll be new accessible paths, linking up with existing footpaths, to create more public access.
The Weston Farm buildings will be restored and repurposed
“Create a continuous wildlife corridor”
National Trust general manager for Purbeck, Tracey Churcher said:
“This is incredibly exciting and a major acquisition which will allow us to create a continuous wildlife corridor, adding to the land that we already manage.
“Nature recovery is at the heart of what we do, but so is connecting people with nature and the outdoors.
“The South West coastal path runs along the edge of the farm and we’ll be able to move the current field fences much further back, giving walkers room to spread out, savour the remarkable coastal views and take in the nature-rich landscape.”
The South West Coast Path runs along the dramatic limestone coastline
Boost for wildlife
The farm’s western boundary runs along Bonvils Road, with the eastern boundary running along Winspit Road and Winspit Bottom, down towards the coastline. There’s also three fields to the north of the farm buildings on Weston Road.
Just over a quarter of the land is already a Site of Special Scientific Interest and sits within the Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
It’s populated with 15 species of bats, rare orchids, butterflies and migrating birds and the plan is for that to be boosted.
Some of the fields will be left as grazing land
“No chemical inputs or regular ploughing”
National Trust ecologist for Purbeck, David Brown said:
“In the future, people will enjoy fantastic uninterrupted access along a seven kilometre stretch of some of the UK’s best coastline, and be free to explore some of its most diverse and ecologically rich grasslands.
“We aim to create a landscape that is richer in nature, so there’ll be no chemical inputs or regular ploughing on any of the land and life will be restored to the soil using natural regenerative farming methods.
“As the land is given time to rest and recover, the ground will store more carbon and streams flowing off the land will be cleaner and healthier.”
Rare bats inhabit the caves at Winspit Quarry
Dorset’s most important swarming site for bats
Part of the acquisition are the caves at Winspit Quarry, which are home to 15 of Britain’s native bat species, making it Dorset’s most important swarming site for bats and a site of national significance.
In the autumn swarming season, thousands of bats flock to the Winspit caves for a night of ‘speed dating’ and mating on the wing.
For rare species such as the serotine and barbastelle bats, this is critical to the health of their populations. The caves are also used for winter hibernation for some of the UK’s rarest bats such as the greater horseshoe.
The limestone quarry attracts lots of climbers
Winspit Quarry is a popular place for climbers and the National Trust is already in discussions with the British Mountaineering Council (BMC) on how best to manage the area and ensure safety.
The land comes with a number of farm buildings, which the National Trust is looking to repair and repurpose. The farmer, who is retiring, will stay in the farm’s bungalow for the time being.
The seasonal campsite is also set to continue, offering relatively cheap holidays in a breathtakingly beautiful part of Purbeck.