Much of the surviving heathland around Poole is close to human habitation and is subject to damage and disturbance from the locals; dog walking, cycling, rubbish tipping and, worst of all, fires (not all of them accidental). To try and counteract this there are various schemes in place and one of them is an imaginative project run by Dorset County Council at Avon Heath Country Park, the Heathland Discovery Centre. Schools from across the county send their pupils there to learn about the nature of heathlands and so to appreciate and value them. It is early days but the indications are that it may be working. There are still a lot of problems but quite often this is with older people rather than children it seems!.
In addition to school parties the site sets out to attract families so the parents can be reached too. As a result there is plentiful car parking, an adventure playground and a reasonable cafe on top of the Discovery Centre itself. The centre organises a wide range of events for families during the year and also provides nature trails and other on-site activities.
With all this educational activity going on it is easy to forget that it is a large area of natural heath with associated reptiles, birds, insects and flowers and is well worth a visit. Once you get away from the central area of educational activities you rarely see a soul. May the Avon Heath centre continue to be successful in everything it does.