We are sad to report another fire at ARC’s St Catherine’s Hill nature reserve near Christchurch, Dorset on Tuesday, 5th April 2022. Comment below from Richard Sharp, ARC’s Dorset Field & Health & Safety Officer:

Last night around 3ha of Town Common at St Catherine’s Hill were set on fire; heathland fires are unfortunately all too common on our nature reserves around Bournemouth and Poole and can cause immense damage to the habitat and the creatures that live in them, 99.9% of these fires are caused either deliberately or accidentally by people. The last devastating fire at this nature reserve was the Town Common fire in 2015.

Heathlands by their nature are dry habitats and so exceedingly prone to arson and wildfires. They are home to particularly vulnerable, slow moving groups of species. All six UK reptiles species and ground nesting birds like the Nightjar and Woodlark, both of which migrate long distances to nest, call St Catherine’s Hill home.

ARC’s Dorset  field team have been rescuing reptiles with some success even with the poor conditions, moving several adders, sand and common lizards to safety on surrounding habitat untouched by the fire, and will continue to search for emerging reptiles for the rest of the week.

We have found dead animals from all six species of our native reptiles and this early in the season with a lot of animals still underground the death toll is likely to be much higher.

With climate change increasing the likeliness of drier summers we will all too likely see an increase in heathland fires in the future. This area will take years to recover and may well be changed beyond all recognition as it grows back.

To find out more about St Catherine’s Hill and Town Common visit our reserve page.