Two years on from the devasting fire at Wareham Forest, money raised from parcel company DPD's recycling efforts is helping to regenerate vital habitats at the Site of Special Scientific Interest.
Since 2020, DPD has worked with Forestry England to help restore Dorset's Wareham Forest with support from its innovative Eco Fund.
Funded solely by the firm's circular economy initiatives, such as recycling shrink wrap and wooden pallets, DPD's Eco Fund awards grants to community groups, educational facilities and start-up companies, to fund green, ecological or sustainable projects benefiting the environment.
With the support from DPD, Forestry England has been able to replant with many young trees across the forest, considering carefully where these are located. The money also went towards the purchase of a specialist heavy-duty mower and collector that has been used to create firebreaks and gather up the vegetation to minimise the risk of future fires in the forest.
Fire can literally leap from one area to another, jumping across roads and paths or using vegetation to creep further along. To help make the forest more resilient the team at Wareham have used the new equipment to create natural gaps between areas of forest by clearing areas of vegetation and planting new trees further back from the edge of the road.
Linked to this work, they have also repaired and restored paths and tracks in the forest to ensure, if needed again, fire crews can get access into affected areas and fight the fire at its source.
Some of the areas most badly affected by the fire have not been replanted and are being managed to help them return to heathland. But even here, Forestry England is reporting green shoots of new life.
Mark Warn, Forestry England's Wareham Wildlife Ranger, said: "The new machinery funded by DPD's Eco Fund has been of immense value, mowing 17.5 kms of ride edges last winter, which improves biodiversity and wildfire management. This is brilliant habitat for pollinating insects and species like the Silver Studded Blue butterfly.
"Restoring Wareham Forest is a big job and will take many years to achieve, we are very grateful for DPD's support, which allows us to continue to work with supporters and volunteers and share with them the huge benefits of the restoration of this special place."
Tim Jones, Director of Marketing, Communications & Sustainability at DPDgroup UK, commented: "We are absolutely delighted to hear the good news from Wareham Forest. We have been on-site and know the scale of the challenges they are facing, so to hear that our funding is making a real difference is fantastic. It is such an important environment, and while it may take decades to fully recover, our funds are also protecting the area against further harm.
"Having our own circular economy means we can generate eco funds to directly back initiatives like this. It gives us a real focus to keep on challenging ourselves to be more sustainable at every level. The more we can raise from recycling, the more we can put back into ecological or sustainable projects that benefit everyone."
Wareham Forest is a stronghold for wildlife and one of the few places where it is still possible to find all six of the UK's native reptiles, including the endangered smooth snake and sand lizard, and it is home to many rare species of birds and insects. In May 2020 a fire, believed to have been started by disposable BBQs, scorched heathland, destroyed woodlands and wiped-out critical habitats for wildlife across an area equivalent to the size of 350 football pitches.
In February 2022, Forestry England and DPD announced a four-year partnership to plant and restore woodland across England to tackle climate change and create positive benefits for local wildlife and communities. The partnership focuses on four separate woodland sites - Colliers Wood near Manchester, Pleasant Forest in Kent, Dimmingsdale in Staffordshire, and Hamsterley Forest, County Durham - where DPD support will enable Forestry England to plant trees to create new woodland areas and carry out work restoring valuable established woodlands.