The Urban Heaths Partnership covers the majority of South East Dorset. Geographically the project area extends from the Purbecks in the west to Christchurch in the east and up to Verwood in the north. Within this vast area 56 heathland Sites of Specific Scientific Interest (SSSI) have been identified as most at risk from local urban pressures.
These heathland sites fall into 20 SSSI boundary areas and many are Special Protection Areas (SPA), Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) and RAMSAR sites (for definitions see Glossary webpage). Some heathland sites also contain protected and unprotected ancient monuments such as bronze age tumuli and historical land boundaries, while others have features such as old military structures and quarry pits.
Although grouped together the heathland sites are all very different. Depending on the location within the Poole Basin the sites have varying vegetation structures and animal populations and their ecology is obviously further influenced by the pressures each site experiences. The larger sites all have wet, humid and dry heath ecosystems within their boundaries while some of the smaller sites only contain one or two heathland habitats. Scrub encroachment is a problem for the majority of the sites but many of them are now grazed by hardy stocks of pony and cattle which gives these sites individuality and instant appeal to heath users.
All the heaths with public access are worth a visit as they all have something different to offer, including amazing views over surrounding landscapes such as the Purbeck Hills, Poole Harbour, Cranborne Chase and even the Isle of Wight.
Alder Hills Local Nature Reserve is a small reserve whose main access lies off Alder Road (A3040) and on the edge of a recent Sainsbury's development
Bourne Bottom Local Nature Reserve lies between the western side of Alder Road (A3040) and the eastern side of Ringwood Road (A348).
Canford Heath is the largest site within the project and is the fourth largest heathland in Dorset.
Corfe Hills lies in the Broadstone area to the north of the Borough of Poole. It is situated along a belt of low hills to the south of the River Stour valley.
- Dewlands Common
Dewlands Common is not only an important remnant of the once expansive range of heaths stretching across south and east Dorset, but has also played a vital role in the history of the local town of Verwood.
Dunyeats Hill lies in the Broadstone area to the north of the Borough of Poole. It is situated along a belt of low hills to the south of the River Stour valley. It is located to the west of Gravel Hill, and borders Delph Woods, a housing estate, a school and a cemetery.
An area of heathland north of Christchurch.
Ferndown Common lies between the Ringwood and Wimborne roads in the parish of Hampreston.
Great Ovens is an area of heathland off Morden Road near Sandford.
Ham Common lies within the Hamworthy area in the west of the Borough of Poole. It is located along the northern shoreline of Poole Harbour, and is boarded to the north by Rockley Caravan Park, and to the west by Hamworthy Royal Marine base. Other names for the site include Rockley Point and Hamworthy Lake.
An area of heathland in Bournemouth
- Parley Common
Parley Common is where the Smooth Snake was first discovered in 1852 in the British Isles. It is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) for its internationally important Lowland Heath. This remnant piece was once part of a continuous swathe which flowed from the New Forest to the Isle of Purbeck.
Slop Bog on the edge of Ferndown was once a peat bog. It is now home to a wide variety of wildlife.
An area of heathland to the north of Christchurch, near Bournemouth International Airport.
- Stephens Castle
Stephens Castle is a pleasant and popular place for walkers and wildlife enthusiasts, with magnificent views from the higher ground across south east Dorset, and footpath links to North Ringwood Forest.
Talbot Heath lies east of Alder Road (A3040), with the southern boundary being the Bournemouth to Poole railway, the northern boundary the area behind Bournemouth University.
Located on the northern edge of Christchurch
An area of heathland in Bournemouth.
One of the largest sites covered by the project