Operation Heathland 

This July saw the launch of our new campaign, Operation Heathland. A campaign spear-headed by The Urban Heaths Partnership and supported by our partners.

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We're asking everyone who visits local heathlands and forests to help protect them this summer. These peaceful, precious sites are not only vital for the wildlife that lives on them but have proven crucial in improving the physical and mental well-being of those who visit them, especially through the difficult days of the corona virus pandemic.

This year these areas are under increasing pressure from an escalated number of visitors. Working with our partners we are calling on everyone to support our campaign to help protect these fragile habitats. We are challenging those who regularly visit these sites to learn a little more about them and the wildlife and plants that live there, and to share this knowledge with as many people as possible.

Hopefully, the wide sharing of knowledge and information will encourage all visitors to our heathlands and forests to understand a little more about them, and to respect, protect and enjoy them, securing their future for generations to come.

A partnership approach is nothing new, the Police Operation Heathland order has been running through the summer months for over 20 years and this year we are taking Operation Heathland to the public, asking for the messages to be shared far and wide.

Paul Attwell, Team Manager of the Urban Heaths Partnership, commented “We are working with partners, especially Dorset Police and Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service, to remind everyone to take care when out and about in our forests or heaths. The heathland habitat is rarer than rainforest and we all need to do our bit to protect these special sites.”

Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service Group Manager, Dave Graham, said “We welcome and are happy to support initiatives such as Operation Heathland. It’s important that we all work together to care for and protect our countryside and avoid devastating fires such as the one at Wareham Forest last year.  We would encourage all visitors to respect, protect and enjoy our heathlands and never light fires or have barbecues.”

He added “Wildfires can ravage the local wildlife, destroying ecosystems in a matter of hours that have taken years to build up.  At their worst, wildfires can cause death or injury to people.  If you see a fire in the countryside, report it immediately by calling 999. Do not tackle a fire yourself, unless it can be put out with a bucket of water. Please call the fire service and leave the area as soon as possible.  Ensure that you know your location or a landmark so you can direct firefighters to the scene.”

When you are out and about in the forest and heathlands remember these points to help you enjoy your visit:

  • Keep yourself and dogs to tracks, footpaths and bridleways. This will reduce the risk to you and your dog from ticks and snake bites, and will keep plants and wildlife safe from disturbance

  • Put in a bin or take home your dog mess and litter. It’s detrimental to the heathland and a health risk to wildlife and other users

  • Never have a fire or BBQ on heathland, it is illegal to do so. If you need to take food a picnic is an easier option.