WORK to restore Wareham Forest has begun thanks to a successful fundraising appeal which was launched after last year's devastating fires.

Forestry England launched the fundraiser after a blaze ripped through around 220 hectares of forest and heathland in Wareham Forest - an incident which was described as 'one of the most devastating fires in Dorset, in living memory' by a senior officer in the fire service - which was believed to have been started by a disposable barbecue.

More than £45,000 has been raised for the project thanks to fundraising events set up by the local community and a major donation from parcel delivery company DPD.

READ MORE: Campaign launched to ban disposable barbecues a year on from devastating forest fire

Bruce Rothnie, forest management director of south forest district for Forestry England, said: "It is just fantastic to now be restoring this special place. The fire last year was devastating, destroying so much of this landscape and the wildlife that call it home.

"The response to our appeal has been overwhelming and we want to say a huge thank you to everyone who got involved."

Wareham Forest is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and is one of the few places that is home to all six of the UK's native reptiles, including sand lizards - 80 per cent of the population of which are believed to be found in Dorset.

The restoration work is focusing on restoring wildlife and habitats destroyed by the fire, removing dead trees and replanting new trees.

For more information on the Wareham Forest restoration project, visit the Forestry England website.