The Erica Trust

Update 21 April 2019

Lesley Haskins writes: I have managed to track down the stone axe found when our quarry north of Culpeppers Dish was fully active and sent to the Natural History Museum – at a time when it was called the British Natural History Museum. They have kindly sent me the photographs copied below which I thought folk might like to see.

stone axe
stone axe

I have had to remove a swing rope from the large beech tree up the slope at the extreme western end of the woodland. I am very much afraid that our insurance would not cover anyone using it, having an accident and making a claim against us. If you know who made it, please explain to them why we cannot turn a blind eye. The saw used to cut the mounting block and stored within it, can be claimed back from me.

We are still getting garden refuse dumped at that western end of the footpath despite my putting up a pleading notice. It could well be that a garden contractor is giving every impression of taking it away for responsible disposal, but actually leaving it here. It consistently comprises hydrangea heads, rose stems, photinia/Christmas berry and some lavender. Most likely it comes from further afield, but if you think this could possibly be your contractor, perhaps you could have a word.

I think the wild daffodils did very well for their first year of being established! The bluebells are soon to be at their best for all to enjoy.

Everyone, like myself, must be fairly  amazed at the speed of progress. Indeed the first work phase has already achieved the majority of the heathland restoration. Felling work has now ceased for the bird nesting season. Gathering in of the cut timber will need to continue for the next few weeks, as apparently it spoils if left.  The brash lines will however be deliberately left for the vehicles to drive over again during the second work phase, so as to lessen the ground disturbance. This  second phase will commence in the late summer/early autumn, hopefully to take advantage of some drier weather. It will complete the heathland restoration work and commence the more exacting process of reducing conifers from the old woodland.

The kind comments and tolerance has been much appreciated during this egg cracking stage, especially as the working conditions have been mainly rather inclement. The remarkable speed with which the work has taken place does mean that the healing process can start all the sooner. Tumbling of some left trees will be inevitable, but they will contribute to the wildlife and landscape in a different form. 

There has been an off road biker about.  Noting a number if there is one, taking a photo,  or verbal challenge can put them off, but do not put yourself at risk in any way.

It is good to see that  the new native type daffodils are making a good showing – and should become more plentiful with time and more light.  

29 January 2019

Lesley Haskins writes: “I am pleased to say that the contractors are now free to make a start on our management plans. The chosen contractor is Chris Denton of Wessex Woodland. They may be on site as early as tomorrow, but more likely later in the week. We now have about a 6 week period before bird nesting starts and in that time they will be working the ‘plateau’ heathland area moving east and west from the main gate on the top road (ie the one midway between the two FC car parks). Just inside the gate they will using the old estate stacking area and also a bit opposite that if needed.

They may be crossing the rights of way at some points, but not using them for access, other than the area up by the said stacking area. There is no need/intent for us to be closing any ROW, but do please be aware that there is going to be activity in the vicinity of them. I have emphasised to them that they are well used by walkers and horse riders. The contractors are also aware of our permitted paths. It is possible these may need to be temporarily closed at critical points. Do bear in mind that the contractors  will not be expecting to meet anybody other than on the ROW and PPs.

Two of the workers will be using 2 caravans during the work period which will be sited in the base of the quarry. Thank you all again for your support and  encouragement and also in advance for your forbearance regarding the noise and general ‘egg cracking’ which will be inevitable in the making of this omelette. I will not be available until Tues pm now, but please feel free to e-mail or telephone (01202 889717) after that if there are any queries.”


The Erica Trust is a small charity started in 2010 to complement work done by the other voluntary wildlife groups in south-east Dorset. The Trust already owns 400 acres, mostly heathland and grassland, around Verwood, Ferndown, and Merley, and it was thrilled to be able to secure the 100 or so acres which formed Lot 3 in the sale of the Neill’s estate coloured in on the map below.

Erica Trust Map
Map of the area covered by the Erica Trust

As its founder and one of three trustees, I can be found most weekends at Little Thatch on the Briantspuddle cross-roads. The charity’s plan is to restore and enhance the amenity and wildlife interest of the land, putting it back to the form in which some of our long standing residents can still remember it – a combination of old broad leaved woodland along the lower ground leading up to sunny heathland above.

To achieve this the northern third of the site will have the majority of the tall ‘alien’ conifers taken out, so the old oak and the beech woodland through which the public footpath runs, can be seen again in its full glory. The hazel understorey will be encouraged by coppicing, and holly controlled. With the shading conifers reduced and light getting through, the broadleaves should start to regenerate themselves again and the bluebells, primroses, wood anemomes and wood sorrel that we all enjoy so much will thrive.

The southern two thirds of the site will have the majority of the Scots pines taken off, so that the former heathland will come again into its own. Any characterful pines, birches and hollies will be left to break up the landscape. Culpeppers Dish will be come obvious again. Work will not start until 2019, and trees will be mostly, if not entirely, taken out southwards over temporary brash based tracks. The plan is also to provide better access by permissive paths linking the existing footpaths and bridleways so we can properly enjoy seeing our local and heathland wildlife flourish.

The ‘allotments plantation’ and surrounds remain in private ownership, however our different but complementary management programmes will ensure maximum variety of habitats and landscape types. If you have any information to pass on or comments you would like to make do please contact Lesley on email or call in at Little Thatch at Briantspuddle Crossroads at weekends.