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Fabulous Fifty

January 5, 2011

Written by Nicky Hoar

Communications Officer

Well this is it, our 50th Anniversary celebrations have begun and will be going on for the whole of 2011, a year of events, challenges and celebrations.  And we have so much to celebrate – an incredible half century of protecting Dorset’s wildlife and wild places.  You’ll be hearing from lots of different members of staff this year, but for now it’s my turn and I want to tell you about the amazing year that has just begun (and some of the amazing people who are involved, some very famous, some not yet)…

It’s hard to believe how things have changed in 50 years.  In the early sixties (no, I don’t actually remember – much- but I admit to being around at the time) winters were really cold (OK I do remember the snow – maybe not so different from now after all!), conservation was not something most people were interested in at all, but seen as a bit ‘cranky’ and it took determination and vision for the pioneers, like Helen Brotherton,  to insist on taking action while there was still time.   If it hadn’t been for the Dorset Naturalists’ Trust – that was our name back then- what would have happened to Brownsea Island, one of the first reserves that our pioneers rescued along with the National Trust, or to the unique Kingcombe Meadows landscape in west Dorset?  Now we do have some legal protection for habitats but anything could have happened back then.  Thank goodness for cranks, that’s all I can say.

David Attenborough with DWT's Pam Knight, Kevin Cook and Helen Brotherton on Brownsea Island in winter 1985

Fit at 50

We wanted this year to be part big party and part getting fit at 50 to face a whole new set of challenges to our beautiful and special county (see the factslist below for just how special Dorset is).  For the getting fit part, we have launched our 50 for 50 Challenge, not just to our members but to everybody who cares about Dorset’s countryside.  We are asking everybody to raise just £50 – that’s £1 for every year that we have been looking after Dorset’s natural environment.  This is for a special Dorset Wildlife Fund that we are setting up to mark the big occasion and giving us emergency and long term financial support for land purchase, development of educational facilities, nature reserve management and for nature-restoration projects.  There are lots of new challenges and we need to be ready for them – climate change, spending cuts, population pressures for starters.

Simon King is backing the challenge as our 50th Anniversary Patron.  He said “Local Wildlife Trusts work to include everyone who has an interest in our natural world… I urge the people of Dorset to rise to the £50 Challenge and help protect the nature of this wonderful, extraordinarily diverse part of England.”


Simon King (photo by Stewart Canham on Brownsea in November) is backing our 50for50 Challenge

The staff are getting behind the idea and we’re all going to raise our £50 (or more) somehow.  I’m still thinking about mine – I’m toying with the idea of busking, no really, I am – but lots of other people are doing sponsored stuff – including my colleague Debbie who is afraid of cows. We are sponsoring her to sit in a field with some of our cattle for an hour this spring.  Sounds easy – not for Debbie!  Steve Davis, our Volunteering Programme Manager is going to run the Bournemouth 10K dressed as a giant badger – you get the idea.  You can see pictures and get lots of ideas or just have a laugh at our expense at our £50 for 50 page We’ve got off to a great start , with £815 pledged already and we’ve only just started!

Steve Davis looks exhausted just wearing the giant badger suit, let alone running

The fun bit – let’s celebrate!

We have a year-long celebration of our 42 reserves: 42toDO – a challenge with prizes to get people to try to visit as many as they can.  There’s a special bike route covering the whole lot (a few nutters including a couple of our staff will be attempting this in one go), with mini-routes for people like me who can manage a few reserves at one end of the county or the other in a day.  It’s not a race and you don’t have to be a cyclist, you can do it by car or on foot too.  You get a special map and at each reserve you can stamp your map to show you’ve made it.  42toDO

I have cycled round the west Dorset reserves - fabulous but very hilly!

Have a look at our anniversary pages for all the latest news and lots more events that will be appearing through the year, with the big finale coming in December at a Gala Concert in aid of DWT by The Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra with conductor Sir John Eliot Gardiner.  Sign up now to make sure of your ticket – we are expecting a mega-sell-out and we are hoping Sir David Attenborough will be there too. Golden Jubilee Concert

Sir John Eliot Gardiner is the conductor for our Golden Jubilee concert -photo by Tony Buckingham

Dorset is Best – FACTS

And just in case you aren’t convinced that Dorset is a very special place for wildlife, here is some evidence – can you add to our list? – post on the blog if you know any good Dorset is Best facts – preferably with evidence/source or how you know.

•    Dorset has the greatest biodiversity, for its size, of any county in Britain
•    Dorset has a 10km square containing more plant species than any other in Great Britain (SY98, which includes Wareham and Corfe Castle – New Atlas Of The British And Irish Flora 2002)
•    Heathland has more species of spider than any habitat in the UK
•    Otters are now found on all Dorset’s river catchments
•    Dorset is the only site for Britain’s rarest spider, the ladybird spider
•    Dorset has all 6 species of British reptile as well as some alien invaders!
•    The first breeding little egrets in Britain nested on Brownsea Island
•    Poole Harbour is one of only 2 sites for red squirrels in the south of England
•    Dorset’s DORIS marine mapping leads Europe in defining how our seas are used
•    Dorset’s seagrass meadows are the only site in the country where both British species of seahorse are known to breed.
•    Dorset is the only place in the UK where the anemone shrimp has been found
•    The only known undulate ray nursery in Britain is near Swanage

Happy New 50th Year! As the song says, let’s make it a good one…

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