Celebrating 50 years of its coastal fundraising campaign, the National Trust has made its first coastal acquisition in the South West this year. It will now care for almost 23 acres of Black Down heathland below the Hardy Monument in Dorset – an area of great natural and historical importance.
The Portland stone ‘spyglass’ monument stands on the highest point of Black Down, 241 metres above sea level, with uninterrupted views out over the English Channel. This is on a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), and the acidic pebbly soils that cap it are home to rare heathland plants and animals.
The Hardy Monument was built in 1844 in memory of Vice-Admiral Sir Thomas Masterman Hardy, Flag Captain of HMS Victory at the Battle of Trafalgar. Hardy famously held Nelson in his arms as he died saying the immortal words ‘Kiss me Hardy’. The Trust has been caring for the monument since 1938 but this year, through a bequest and support from the Patsy Wood Trust, it has greatly extended that land to encompass the car park and surrounding heathland.
Helen Mann, National Trust General Manager for West and North Dorset, said: “This acquisition of heathland south of Hardy Monument not only marks the 50th anniversary of the National Trust Coast Campaign, but also creates another vital link in our on-going campaign to protect and share the South West coastline for ever, for everyone.
“We want to see a coast rich in wildlife and culture, with space for everyone to enjoy it. We now care for 300 miles of the south west coastline – one in every three miles – and we need your continued support to raise £1 million each year to realise this vital work.”
The strange, slightly ‘moonscape’ nature of the heathland, is due to large swallow or shake holes – distinctive craters created by acidic rain dissolving the underlying chalk. These are a real feature of the area, and have created microclimates with their own unique vegetation.
Simon Ford, South West Wildlife and Countryside Advisor for the National Trust, said: “This wonderful heathland is swathed in heather, gorse and bilberry, and in summer is alive with butterflies – from holly blue and small copper to small heath and meadow brown. And the birdlife is equally enchanting – with stonechats, linnets and kestrels, and at night the rattling call of the nightjar.
“With careful management and by working in partnership we can protect the coastline, making it increasingly joined up and better for both wildlife and people.”
The Trust is working in partnership with Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Natural England and Dorset County Council to manage the land at Hardy Monument, in conjunction with the South Dorset Ridgeway Partnership. The Patsy Wood Trust gifted £50,000 to help the Trust acquire and manage the site into the future.