The Portland Coast & Countryside Project is a partnership of organisations aiming to promote conservation, awareness and enjoyment of Portland’s wildlife and landscape for local people and visitors. This includes the employment of a part-time Island Ranger.
Currently, organisations involved in the partnership are Natural England, Weymouth and Portland Borough Council, Dorset Wildlife Trust and Dorset Countryside. From April 2009, Portland Gas Trust will be part of the partnership too. There are regular steering group meetings.
In addition to this, ‘The Portland Conservation Forum’, chaired by Natural England brings together a range of organisations working in wildlife and conservation on the Island, in regular meetings. A recent ‘Wildlife on Portland’ newsletter sponsored by the Heights Hotel and Swarovski highlights some of the work the organisations are involved in.
The island is extremely rich in wildlife and the role of the Island Ranger is to help raise awareness of the Island’s natural environment through various activities and providing opportunities for people to get involved in practical conservation work.
Interpretation and awareness - Developing a programme of activities, events and improved interpretation
Current initiatives include:
• The revision of interpretation materials including interpretation boards in the Quarries, the Island Walk cards and Portland’s wildlife leaflets.
• ‘Hidden Ledges’ - remote cameras on the cliffs at Portland Bill to observe and monitor nesting seabirds.
• Development of wildlife training days and a ‘Portland Wildlife Week’.
• National Marine Week on Portland.
• ‘Wildlife on Portland’ newsletter from the Portland Conservation Forum.
• The Portland Wildlife Watch Group – last Saturday of every month, a practical conservation or wildlife activity for children and families.
Habitat Management - Retaining a good balance of scrub and grassland to maximise the island’s biodiversity
The Ranger is involved in an on-going programme of managing mainly scrub across the island on special wildlife sites, including the Special Area of Conservation (SAC), Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and Site of Nature Conservation Importance (SNCI). A major problem for Portland is the non-native Cotoneaster scrub which is highly invasive and is shading out the limestone grassland, so rich in plants and butterflies.
Recreation – Getting involved where appropriate in helping to manage recreation the island
The ranger works closely with:
• The British Mountaineering Council on climbing, ensuring wildlife is protected through sanctuary zones and seasonal restrictions.
• Dorset Countryside on the South West Coast Path on Portland, ensuring it is up to standard.
• Weymouth and Portland Borough Council and landowners, maintaining internal footpaths and the development of a Portland Quarry Trail.
• The Crown Estate, developing the Portland Bill erosion project.
Volunteering opportunities – Developing opportunities for local people to get involved in practical and monitoring conservation work
• A range of local groups, for example, the Ridgeway Centre, Rethink, British Trust for Conservation Volunteers and Dorset Conservation Volunteers carry out practical conservation work including footpath clearance, removal of Cotoneaster, litter picking and dry stone walling.
• The Portland Conservation Volunteers meet the first Friday of every month.
• An Annual Island Clean-up is organised jointly with the PCP, usually in September.
• The Dorset Beach Clean takes place every year, usually in April.
• Working with Community groups help improve their local environment such as The Chiswell Community Group.
• The Young Offenders Institute and the Verne regularly help with conservation projects.
• Local volunteers help monitor the reintroduced wild goat herd and record marine mammals from Portland Bill as part of regular rotas.
If you would like further information on any of the above projects or would like to get involved in volunteering please contact Lyn Cooch on 01305 826100, 07973 907760 or email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org or through the Island Volunteers for You Office, 19 Easton Street.