Close Call at Higher Hyde Heath

Not primarily dragonfly related, but it does involve one of my recommended locations.

Last week I received an e-mail from one of my Flickr contacts informing me of a potential disaster with the neighbouring sites owners clearing a section of bank bordering the reserve.

A visit to Higher Hyde Heath is not complete without a foray ‘around the back’ on what I assume is still (unused) industrial land belonging to the Quarry owners. The detritus left behind by human workings have been taken over by nature as only nature will – by adapting to the environment.

At Higher Hyde Heath old tyres and roof tiles have provided home to the rare and protected Sand Lizard along with other native British reptiles. The concrete and tarmac is bordered by a fine selection of hedge fauna which provides food and shelter to many birds and invertebrates – dragonflies included!

Sue & I had a look last week, and found the subsidence caused by the Dorset Wildlife Trust’s removal of gorse more worrying!

The section of bank the contractors had dug was a basking spot for reptiles, and the result ‘may’ have affected more than just a basking spot. In my experience reptiles choose to bask close to their shelter, so there may have been more damage caused than meets the eye…

Back to the subsidence…there is a thin strip of land – the path through the reserve proper – with a large pond on one side and a landfall the other! This would cause me more concern. The section of path has been taped off, but regular visitors will (and do) ignore this…I don’t think the minimal people traffic is priority. My concern is the weight of the large body of water behind it!

What is significant is the Higher Hyde Reserve would probably not exist if the site owners – currently Hansons – had not come to some arrangement with the DWT, so in some ways we should be thankful it exists at all.

Like everyone else I try to avoid politics, but if you’re passionate about anything then at some point it will catch up with you – whether you like it or not!

A simple e-mail was sent to Hansons – the quarry site owners – with our concerns and we felt we did our bit. We didn’t expect an answer back, but we received one today:-

‘Thank you for your email regarding alleged disturbance of the sand lizards at Gallows Hill and thank you for bringing this matter to our attention.

Fortunately your fears are unfounded. Once notified, we immediately instructed our demolition contractor to stop work and arranged for consultant herpetologist David Bird to visit the site. He confirmed that any disturbance has been minimal and no damage to the habitat or animals has occurred. He also advised that any plant, materials, old tyres etc located on the paved area can be removed without issue, but suggested the few tyres strewn on the bank at the edge of the site should be left as basking areas. We have re-iterated the sensitivity of this site to our contractors, instructed them to proceed with extreme caution and spoken to Andrew Nicholson at Natural England to explain the situation.

Thank you again for bringing this matter to our attention and rest assured that conservation management and creation and protection of habitats remains a key part of our sustainability strategy and a top priority within Hanson.

David Weeks

Communications manager’

Naturally there is compromise in these situations, and for my part I’m satisfied with the process and outcome from Hansons. It could’ve been more worrying had the site not hosted a protected species, which is a concern for us all.

Species only become protected when they’ve reached such a low population it prompts us into doing something about it. Maybe we should read the signs a little earlier and prevent losing any more of what we have left..