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Dorset Wildlife Trust (DWT) and partners have announced they have received £61,900 of funding from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, for the Gillingham Royal Forest project. The project will run for three years and aims to ‘engage the local community with the natural history of this historic landscape’, says DWT.

In June 1204 King John arrived in Gillingham to stay at a hunting lodge which was set within a royal deer park, surrounded by extensive forest known as the ‘Royal Forest of Gillingham’. Later, the lodge was to become known as ‘Kings Court’. The remains can still be seen today and are now scheduled ancient monuments.

The natural heritage of the Gillingham Royal Forest includes ancient hedgerows and woodlands, with a high density of veteran trees, ponds and chalk stream head lands. Protected species include Bechstein’s and Daubenton’s bats, great crested newts, otters and water voles. The natural and cultural features of this land form a living landscape of great importance and value to the local community, providing opportunities for learning, recreation and participation in conserving its heritage.

Nicki Brunt, Dorset Wildlife Trust Living Landscape Manager said: ‘Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, we will be able to improve access along two walking routes, with leaflets and interpretation about the heritage. The funding will also enable us to work with partners to run a series of events such as walks and talks and to provide opportunities to learn rural skills and take part in practical conservation work.’

Stuart Hobley, area director London & South at The National Lottery Heritage Fund said: ‘It’s the National Lottery’s 25th birthday this year and during that time, money raised by players has been used to protect so much of our natural heritage, enabling people to enjoy it and play their own vital roles in the futures of the landscapes and wildlife around them. As someone who grew up in this corner of Dorset, I’m delighted that Gillingham Royal Forest is now part of that story.’

Gillingham mayor, Councillor Barry Von Clemens, said: ‘Gillingham Town Council is highly supportive of this project and is looking forward to working with others to promote the heritage of the area and to deliver exciting opportunities for everyone to get involved.’

The Gillingham Royal Forest is a partnership project led by Dorset Wildlife and includes:
Gillingham Town Council, Gillingham Local History Society, Gillingham Walkers, North Dorset Health Walks, Gillingham Action for Nature Group, Motcombe Parish Council, Dorset Council, Natural England, Blackmore Vale Line Community Partnership, Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group South West, Wessex Water, U3A, White Hart Link, Stour Catchment Partnership, Riverfly Group, and NFU.

For more information about the project, please contact the project officer, Nicky Hoar on 01202 692033 or nhoar@dorsetwildlifetrust.org.uk.

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