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Purbeck Important Ponds Project

February 1, 2009
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Over the past month, I have been involved in volunteering for the Purbeck Important Ponds Project (PIPP), a fantastic new 2 year project launched by Conservation Officer Rachel Janes and funded by Biffaward, the Environment Agency and Dorset AONB. It promises to be an excellent opportunity for rebuilding wetland biodiversity in the Purbeck district by creating a network of new ponds and/or restoring existing ponds. Read on to learn more about my involvement in the project and how you could help too….

(From left) Alison Turnock (Dorset AONB), Sandie Moors (EA), Rachel Janes (DWT), Genoveva Esteban (QMUL), Jonathan Kershaw (NT), Mike Gould (Dorset CC)

(From left) Alison Turnock (Dorset AONB), Sandie Moors (EA), Rachel Janes (DWT), Genoveva Esteban (QMUL), Jonathan Kershaw (NT), Mike Gould (Dorset CC)

The Purbeck district is known to be an ‘aquatic hotspot’, with a plethora of ponds that contain nearly all of the known British dragonfly species as well as the rare great crested newt, which is protected by law under the Wildlife and Countryside Act.

Sympetrum-striolatum (common-darter)

Sympetrum-striolatum (common-darter)

Ponds are often neglected, despite being one of Dorset’s richest habitats. One third of countryside ponds have disappeared since the 1940’s in the UK and the latest Countryside Survey reports that 80% of lowland ponds are now in poor or very poor condition. The Purbeck Important Ponds Project has been developed to address targets in the governments draft Pond Habitat Action Plan and over the 2 years aims to:
• Compile a map of all Purbeck’s Ponds and a shortlist of top ‘flagship’ ponds
• Survey 30 of the best ponds for plants and invertebrates such as snails, nymphs and larvae
• Create and/or restore 40 ponds.

Pond dipping with Catherine and Rachel

Pond dipping with Catherine and Rachel

Throughout January, I assisted Rachel in the first step of the programme by compiling a map of all of Purbeck’s ponds. My starting role as a PIPP volunteer saw me forming a very close relationship with MapInfo Professional, plotting little pink stars on a map of East Dorset based on survey data and OS water layers.

Pink Stars

Pink Stars

Thursday 29th January heralded the launch of the Project at Leeson House in Langton Matravers. The day began with an introduction to the project by Rachel, who gave a thought provoking presentation to the partners and funders of the Project. After captivating everyone’s interest, it was time (in superb DWT tradition) for tea and cake, which gave everyone a chance to mingle and discuss ideas after the presentation. Just as I was reaching for what looked a very scrumptious slice of ginger cake however, I was whisked outside, along with Rachel and Catherine Abbott, People and Wildlife Assistant and fellow PIPP volunteer for the press photo call by the pond.

Pond Posers

Pond Posers

Despite being a freezing day, our inner Kate Mosses soon emerged and it wasn’t long before we were flashing smiles and flicking our hair like professionals. The real star of the photo call, however, was the bewildered smooth newt, plucked innocently from the muddy depths and thrown headfirst into a whirlwind 5 minutes of stardom. Maybe he will be slightly more hesitant about making an early return from hibernation next year…

Our celebrity newt

Our celebrity newt

Back in the warm, it was time for the workshop. This was designed to explore the best way to target the resources of the project in Purbeck and to brainstorm ideas as to which ponds should be the flagship ponds and where to potentially place new ponds. There was a high level of expertise in each of the three groups and by the end of the workshop there were 3 maps with plenty of suggestions scribbled on, providing a solid base for the next stage of the Project to advance from.

Representatives from Queen Mary University London, Natural England, National Trust, Leeson House and PIPP Volunteers ponder over the ponds of Purbeck

Representatives from Queen Mary University London, Natural England, National Trust, Leeson House and PIPP Volunteers ponder over the ponds of Purbeck

As the morning drew to a close and we started packing up, a suggestion from a fellow DWT member (who shall remain anonymous for the purpose of this blog but I invite you to guess who) to ‘pub-lunch-it’ did not go unmissed. The unanimous decision therefore that it would be criminal not to visit the Square and Compass since it was so close saw the small, quirky little pub receive an unexpected boost to their winter trade. After feasting on some hearty pasties (mine washed down with some delicious Weston’s Perry!), it was time for everyone to return to their respective organisations and get back to work.

Rachel Janes: the new face of pond conservation!

Rachel Janes: the new face of pond conservation!

If you would like to help volunteer with the Purbeck Pond Project by becoming involved with practical survey and creation work, please visit the DWT website: www.dorsetwildlife.co.uk or contact Rachel Janes (Rivers & Wetlands Conservation Officer) DWT, Brooklands Farm, Forston, Dorchester, Dorset DT2 7AA 01305 264620 rjanes@dorsetwildlife.co.uk

Photos courtesy of Rupert Halden (eyecatch@fsmail.net) and Nicky Hoar

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