Time is running out with just a month to go for The Greensand Trust to raise the £50K it needs to buy Shire Oak Heath, a 17 acre site neighbouring Rushmere Country Park which the Trust runs on a not-for-profit basis. The Trust wants to secure the site so that it can become part of the park and be restored to a thriving, well-maintained area of heathland, also providing a safer cycle route into the park.

The Trust launched an appeal to buy the site back in July and so far has raised over £12K from public donations. It hopes to secure a number of grants very soon which will take the total raised to around £40K which will leave a shortfall of £10K to ensure the future of the site.

Runners and volunteers of Rushmere parkrun, which takes place at the Park every Saturday morning at 9am, recently turned up dressed in purple to represent heather of the heathland and raise awareness of the Shire Oak Heath appeal which has a month left to run. Joining the parkrun was the Trust’s Director of Development Jon Balaam who expressed his thanks to parkrun organiser Tracey Cardno and her team for their hospitality and willingness to support the appeal.

Shire Oak Heath was once a thriving heathland and, therefore, has great potential for restoration. Heathland within the park and already under the Greensand Trust’s management at Rushmere has been restored to such a degree that Natural England recognised it as part of an extended National Nature Reserve (NNR) of Kings Wood & Rushmere in 2016.

The unrestored area the charity aims to purchase remains at risk, identified by Natural England as being in an unfavourable and declining condition due to lack of management, and is now a neglected remnant of what was once a thriving heathland.

If the Trust is unable to raise the necessary £50K it needs for the purchase, it will have to scale back or delay its aspirations for restoring the site to a thriving heathland providing valuable habitats for a number of species. One of its aims for acquiring the site is to provide a safe cycle access to Rushmere from Heath and Reach– this may have to be put on hold if the funding is not made available.

Jon Balaam added: “We’re calling on the local community and all those who enjoy Rushmere Country Park and value our conservation work to support this appeal to secure this site and help us to reverse its decline so it can once again be regarded as a valuable heathland habitat.

“Adding Shire Oak Heath to Rushmere Country Park will provide a welcome extension to what is already a much-valued local site offering further opportunities to all our visitors, including safer access for cyclists.”

Donations can be made via: www.greensandtrust.org/appeal/restoring-shire-oak-heath-appeal