The Southend Dormouse Group (SDG) is a local group that monitors the hazel dormouse* population within the Belfairs Local Nature Reserve and provides education and advice regarding dormice and their conservation.  The group works closely with the local authority and other conservation groups and is affiliated to the Essex and Suffolk Dormouse Group.

The Belfairs Local Nature Reserve (comprising Dodds Grove and Hadleigh Great Wood) is owned and managed by Southend-on-Sea Borough Council (SBC).  It is ancient oak woodland (coppice with standards) and has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), notified under Section 28 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

History of the SDG

There were historical records of dormice at Belfairs, dating back to 1958 and an unconfirmed sighting from 1974 but, in 2002, a conservation work party (made up of volunteers from the South Essex Natural History Society and the South East Essex Conservation Volunteers) found a dormouse during clearing work.

As a result of this find, Southend-on-Sea Borough Council produced a Biodiversity Action Plan for the dormouse in 2003 and, the following year, they set up the SDG.

In 2005, the first group member was granted the Natural England licence needed for monitoring the hazel dormouse and the first dormouse nest boxes were put up in the nature reserve.  

In 2007, the Hadleigh Great Wood site was registered with the National Dormouse Monitoring Programme run by the People's Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) #.  This programme collates monitoring information about dormice (including number of dormice found, gender, weight and breeding condition) from over 300 sites across England and Wales, with the aim of learning more about them and what can be done to slow/stop their decline.

The SDG now

The SDG currently has 100 dormouse nest boxes registered with the National Dormouse Monitoring Programme.  These nest boxes are checked monthly between April and November (in accordance with the requirements set down by the PTES) by volunteers who hold Natural England Licences.  

The group is now co-ordinated by dormouse licence holders, Karen Bigmore and Sue Portsmouth, who can provide:

  • talks to local interest groups, schools, clubs etc.
  • a dormouse display board at open days, fĂȘtes etc.
  • opportunities to observe/assist with dormouse monitoring
  • advice regarding monitoring for dormice, suitable habitat etc.

A twice-yearly newsletter is also sent to members.  (SDG membership is currently free.)

If you are interested in joining the group or would like further information, please contact the group at:

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*  The hazel dormouse is an endangered species that is native to England and Wales and is protected by both UK and European law.

#  PTES is a registered charity which aims to reverse the decline of vulnerable species and habitats in the UK and worldwide.  They have a special focus on British mammals.