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Purbeck Keystone Project

The Purbeck Keystone Project supported a wide range of outdoor learning, stone working and conservation projects. Funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, the project worked with community organisations, volunteers and farmers.

The Purbeck Keystone Project was a partnership between the Purbeck Heritage Committee and other key organisations, including Purbeck District Council, Environment Agency, Dorset AONB, National Trust and Natural England. The project has now ended, but some of the work is being continued by partners.

For any enquiries relating to this Project, please email the Natural Heritage and Tourism Team.

Outdoor Education

Purbeck offers a wide range of outdoor learning experiences for people of all ages. There is fascinating history, world renowned geological features, areas of outstanding natural beauty and sites of special scientific interest. Purbeck is the perfect outdoor classroom and offers an amazing range of educational opportunities from geology to history to adrenalin fuelled adventure activities.

Inland Jurassic access

Purbeck is internationally renowned for its geological landscape.

The Purbeck Keystone Project worked in partnership with the Dorset Important Geological Sites Group (DIGS) on projects to bring local geology to life including the creation of a virtual geological field tour of Purbeck and the commissioning of paintings of Purbeck during the Jurassic Period.

For more information regarding DIGS and to buy copies of the virtual geological field tour, visit the DIGS website. (opens in a new window) .

Purbeck Footprints

The Keystone Project worked in partnership with Artsreach and local writer Paul Hyland to run public writing workshops and sessions for local schools that explored Purbeck's stone history. From this, they created an inspiring anthology. They also produced an educational resource pack that provides teachers with engaging ideas and resources for educating students about the history and geology of Purbeck.

Explore how this history has shaped Purbeck's landscape by following the guided walk leaflets. Have a look along the coastal path at Chapmans Pool. Nestled in the dry stone wall are large stones beautifully carved with emotive poetry written by Paul.

To purchase any of the above, please contact the Artsreach office on 01305 269512.

Cultural Landscape

Purbeck stone has been quarried extensively for over 2000 years. The stone industry has shaped the landscape and the environment of Purbeck and the lives of generations of its inhabitants.

The Purbeck Keystone Project supported traditional stone working through a number of projects, including:

Natural Landscape

The Purbeck Keystone Project supported farming practices that encourage biodiversity and restore the increasingly threatened habitats found in Purbeck - specifically the wetland habitats alongside the River Frome and the chalk grassland of the Purbeck Ridge.

The Frome Valley Project

The floodplain wet grasslands of the Purbeck Frome and lower Piddle above Wareham are very important for wildlife. They have in the past been modified for drainage or managed as water meadows, which has left behind a network of ditches rich in plants and insects. There are some remnants of species rich grassland and areas which support significant numbers of over wintering wetland birds.

Local farmers manage these flood plains by grazing. Many of these farmers, with the help of the Purbeck Keystone Project, have been able to access payments under Defra agri-environment schemes to manage the land extensively to help look after soils, water and wildlife.

Between Moreton and Wareham, the Purbeck Keystone Project has helped farmers install and implement small scale water level management schemes to control water levels principally to help wetland birds. Through the project, volunteers have helped conduct wetland bird surveys over four consecutive years. Also a ditch management grant has encouraged landowners to restore some of the neglected ditches in the valley. It is hoped the good start to this work will be continued within Higher Level Stewardship Agreements administered by Natural England and with ongoing support from the Dorset Wild Rivers Project (opens in a new window) which runs until 2015.

The Purbeck Ridge Project

The Purbeck Ridge extends across 518ha of semi-natural chalk grassland with high species diversity. Calcareous grassland is a UK Biodiversity Action Plan priority habitat. The Purbeck Ridge has been identified in the Dorset Biodiversity Action Plan as in need of restoration. The Purbeck Keystone Project and the Ridge farmers have worked hard to control the main threat to this habitat, which is gorse encroachment. The Purbeck Ridge Project Final Report (pdf, 6Mb) (opens in a new window)  gives further details.

The habitat work and the attractive breeds of grazing animals can be seen along the Ridge between Nine Barrow Down and Alms Grove Gate. In addition, meat products from the Ridge grazing animals are branded under the Loving the Land logo - the Loving the Land leaflet (pdf, 711kb) (opens in a new window) gives more information.

Volunteer networks have also been important in surveying and assessing the impact of the conservation works, in the form of botanical surveys through Dorset Environmental Records Centre (opens in a new window)  and butterfly transect walks through Dorset Branch - Butterfly Conservation (opens in a new window) .

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