Former Clay Works To Become Nature Reserve

Three thousand acorns have been planted on the site of a former clay pit in Dorset as part of plans by Imerys Minerals to transform it into a nationally significant haven for wildlife.

Work to breathe new life into the historic Arne ball clays works, on the Arne peninsula in the western reaches of Poole Harbour, which is no longer required for clay production, began earlier this year.

The plan developed by Imerys - working closely with Dorset County Council, Natural England, the RSPB and Poole Harbour Commissioners - will see the open cast site reprofiled and replanted to create a rare saline lagoon habitat with salt marsh edges, surrounded by grass, heath and oak woodland.

When completed, it is expected that the site will provide home to a diverse range of wildlife species – potentially including nesting terns – and will complement and enhance nearby nature conservation habitats in Poole Harbour which already have European designation.

The innovative restoration project includes planting acorns to reinstate the ancient oak woodland with the same genetic make-up as the surrounding area.

The acorns, which were planted on Sunday by a team of volunteers, had been collected by visitors to the beautiful nature reserve, who deposited them in collection buckets.

Next year the project team hopes to involve local schoolchildren, working with them to plant them as saplings.

Chris Cleaves, Imerys Ball Clays General Manager, said:

"Arne ball clay works provided a fantastic opportunity to transform this former industrial facility into a truly special wildlife site and we are all extremely proud of what's been achieved so far.

"We have already moved about 160,000 tonnes of on-site material to restore the pit to a profile that will best realise its potential as a saline lagoon of high biodiversity interest.

"We would like to extend a heartfelt thanks to all the volunteers who have done their own bit for the restoration by helping us to
collect the acorns, and by planting them.”

Rob Farrington, from Dorset RSPB, said:

“We couldn’t have hoped to have completed this mammoth task without the help of RSPB volunteers and visitors.

"It is always immensely satisfying to see how many people are willing to give up their time to get outside and get mucky to step up for nature and we are always looking for more help throughout the winter to help with our other ‘Heathland Bash’ work parties.”