MORE than 300 species have been added to a list of occupants at a Dorset site – two years after the start of a rewilding project.
Since the Wild Woodbury rewilding scheme – led by the Dorset Wildlife Trust – got underway, it has restored the headwaters of the River Sherford to allow it to take its natural course across the site.
The land, at Bere Regis, had been drained with a deep ditch and field drain system and the river itself could no longer be seen.
By strategically filling in ditches to push water out onto the land, blocking up field drains and creating leaky dams, a once dry and cracked landscape is now a heterogeneous mixture of large flows, ephemeral pools, and delta-like areas, the trust said.
“This makes the land much more resilient to drought, filters excess nutrients out of the water, helps to alleviate flash flooding downstream, and will provide habitats and space for biodiversity and bio abundance to increase,” a spokesperson went on.
“Just a few weeks after the restoration had finished, surveys showed a total of 90 lapwing, 20 golden plover, and 30 common snipe, all feeding in the newly wetted areas.
They said Wild Woodbury has seen a ‘huge increase in both biodiversity and bio-abundance’, with the site list now boasting more than 1,600 species, an increase of 300 from the previous year.
“Several Red-listed and Red-data Book species, including marsh tit and greenfinch, are using the site to breed, helping smaller populations build resilience, as well as increasing numbers of more common species.
“The upward trend in ground nesting bird numbers continues from year one, with skylark now at around 50 pairs compared to 18 in 2022, tree pipit increasing from one to seven pairs, and nightjar holding new territories.
“Reptiles are moving back in, with adder now confirmed to be breeding, and an uplift of grass snake, slow worm, and common lizard populations on site.
“Invertebrate numbers continue to grow, with butterflies showing around a 25% increase in abundance, including the colonisation and breeding of silver-studded blues, a butterfly usually associated with wet heath habitats.”
Meanwhile, planting of a food forest has been taking place, with around 200 mixed fruit trees and bushes being planted by staff and volunteers.
“Not only will this food forest help provide local and sustainable food for the nearby residents, but it will add to the diversity of habitats on site, supporting different species with shelter and a food source,” the spokesperson added.
“The work will continue over the coming year as natural processes are allowed to lead the way at Wild Woodbury, including the introduction of free roaming cattle, horses, and pigs.
“These livestock will browse, graze, and rootle, leading a dynamic system of competition between scrub growth and grazing, which will create an ever-changing mosaic of habitats to support biodiversity and bio-abundance.”
For more information on the Wild Woodbury project, visit dorsetwildlifetrust.org.uk/WildWoodbury