Cerne Valley Project

In October 2012, we began our work at Cerne Abbas for our Cerne Valley Community Landscape Project. Since then the five phases of this work have been generously supported by The Patsy Wood Trust, to whom we are VERY grateful.

The group has gone from strength to strength and we are now averaging 15 – 22 participants each Thursday session. We have achieved a considerable amount of work in this time and have provided 80 days of fresh air and exercise (and great fun!) for many different people – over 160 different individuals have been involved since 2012 on 11 different sites in the mid Dorset area. We have a set of photos of this work on our Flickr site , here , here , and the latest here.

the team after the completion of the work on the ancient monument above Nether Cerne


This project aims to address three challenges:

  • The deterioration of the wonderfully biodiverse downland habitat caused by agricultural neglect.
  • The separation of communities, adults and children, from their surroundings (even rural ones).
  • The waste of human potential caused by early mental illness and alienation in young people.

The River Cerne valley in central Dorset is renowned for the richness of its chalk downland as well as for its scenic beauty. The butterfly species list for Black Hill for example totals 35 and the rich flora is typical of the Dorset chalk. Giant Hill is one of the foremost sites in Dorset for chalk downland butterflies. If left unmanaged, the habitat would soon be lost to ash woodland and the butterflies, orchids and birds will disappear.

We have been working with the local community, adults and the school, a group of adults with learning disabilities from a day centre in Weymouth and a team of young adults who are recovering from First Episode Psychosis. The programme gives these an opportunity to develop new skills and interests and, we hope, will instil/restore confidence and self-esteem which are often damaged during a period of mental illness.

The project aims:

  • To create a linked-up chalk downland habitat in the Cerne Valley from Lyons Gate to Charminster, for the benefit of the flora and fauna and for the benefit and greater involvement of the local community.
  • To provide training, preparation for work and improved health for disadvantaged people from the area.
  • To include in the project public events – a presentation, social evenings and guided walks – and activities for the local schools, making this scheme as much as possible a Community project.
  • To enhance the survival prospects of several threatened species of butterflies and moths as a result of the input of manhours that this project hopes to achieve. These include Marsh Fritillary, the Duke of Burgundy, Chalkhill Blue, Small Blue and Adonis Blue.

It is hoped that once the downland is opened up again, regular grazing by sheep and cattle will maintain the habitat in good condition.


We are now well into the fifth phase of this project, having carried out habitat improvements on 11 different sites for several different landowners in the Cerne valley on 80 different days. We have also involved the local schools from Charminster and Cerne Abbas – several classes have visited Giant Hill and Black Hill to enjoy the butterflies and wildflowers, and further activities are planned for the summer of 2017 when the flora and fauna should be at their best.

Support this project

Please contact us if you would like to play a part in this exciting scheme. We are always on the lookout for volunteers so contact us if you are interested in giving it a try!


We have obtained generous grants from the Patsy Wood Trust for this project but would welcome further contributions towards peripheral costs – eg barbecues and other community events. Help us by making a donation.