Jasper Iepema

Purbeck Natural History Forum

Introduction to the Forum

The Purbeck Natural History Forum (PNHF) originated from other wildlife recording projects such as the Cyril Diver project and Back from the Brink. The Forum was established in its current form in 2022 and works with an increasing number of conservation organisations and landowners (see link), to promote biological recording and enable naturalists to record flora and fauna across the Purbeck landscape. This is being achieved by:

  • Bringing landowners, conservation organisations and volunteer recorders for the region together in one place. Landowners and conservation organisations often have a desire to know more about which species occur on their land. By communicating their desire for recording through the Forum, they provide a wide range of opportunities for our volunteers to go out recording within their own interests.
  • Providing naturalists with the chance to go out recording a wide range of species in a variety of landscapes. This is supported by landowners and conservation organisations providing the Forum members with access to their land, risk assessments and insurance against accidents whilst out recording.
  • Making biological recording enjoyable, interesting and fulfilling for everyone who wants to participate. Through the partner organisations and expert volunteers, the Forum provides access to training workshops, guidance and expertise for people with different interests and levels of experience.

Contribute to conservation

Through the work of the volunteers, the Purbeck Natural History Forum actively supports the conservation of our precious flora and fauna in the Purbeck area. Biological Records provided through the Forum enable landowners and conservation organisations to have a better understanding of the state of the habitats and allow them to make better management decisions. Some landowners also express an interest in particular species information they would find most useful for land management to help guide volunteer activity.

All data collected through the Forum are forwarded to the Dorset Environmental Record Centre (DERC) where they are stored in their database. This way records will be available long term and can be also used by third parties with an interest in biological records. Having centralised places where these records are being kept is of great importance as they can be used for a wide variety of conservation work, including community education and research.

The Isle of Purbeck

The Isle of Purbeck (or the Purbeck area) is situated in the South-East of Dorset and consists of a variety of natural habitats. Its landscape is one of the most biodiverse places in the UK, providing home to thousands of wildlife species including many that are listed as rare, threatened, or protected. The Purbeck heathlands are of national importance and cover more than 5% of all heathlands in the UK. The area is also well-known for its chalk and limestone grassland and ridges, with its particular suite of habitat specialist species. Chalk rivers such as the rivers Frome and Piddle flow through the Purbeck landscape and out into Poole Harbour. This harbour is well known for being one of the largest natural harbours in the world and is a huge wetland area for birds and other wildlife. But Purbeck also offers a variety of woodlands, including ancient woodlands and a large number of veteran trees.

Purbeck is home to the first national ‘super’ nature reserve in the UK: the Purbeck heaths NNR spans 3.331 hectares and is home to a large number of heathland specialist species. There are however many other conservation sites of local, national and international importance. One aspect that makes the Purbeck area so special is that landowners and conservation organisations work together at a landscape scale to restore habitats, increase biodiversity and improve the environment. The Wareham Arc project, a landscape recovery scheme with 26 participants, is a great example of this.

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The Purbeck area


Whether you are an amateur naturalist, an expert, or someone who has just started to develop an interest in wildlife monitoring and recording, the Forum can help you with support and guidance. The Forum encourages volunteers who want to go out individually to survey and monitor species they enjoy working on, or to join a regular survey group. Our aim is to make biological recording in the Purbeck area enjoyable, interesting and fulfilling for everyone. In addition to the tie our volunteers spend out with local wildlife, once a year (usually in November) the Forum members meet for an Annual Meeting of Recorders where there are presentations and discussions of the species, landscapes and activities volunteers have been involved with. If you are interested in joining the Forum, please complete the Registration Form. Membership is free and available to everyone with an interest in wildlife recording and monitoring. If you have any further questions about the Forum, please contact the Forum through our online contact form or email purbecknhf@gmail.com.

The Forum aims to:

  • Provide a central hub for information on volunteer wildlife monitoring across the Purbeck area
  • Provide survey guidance on species that are a priority for monitoring and recording, including any protocols and recording methods
  • Collate species and environmental data to support the conservation management of the Purbeck Heaths and surrounding areas
  • Provide support and guidance to members with regards to health and safety aspects during any field visits
  • Provide accident insurance for volunteers whilst undertaking their activities
  • Facilitate access to individual sites to conduct surveys
  • Facilitate access to training and resources to support Forum members to encourage and develop the skills of new or existing naturalists

The Purbeck Natural History Forum works with a group of partners