Dorset as a county is massively geologically diverse and indeed, ancient. With the spectacular Jurassic Coast detailing the history of the land, there is a wide variety of nature reserves, sites of special interest and plenty of fields across the county. Focussing mainly on the Isle of Purbeck, we wanted to suggest a few places where you could find some pretty interesting and rare species of bird, insect and fauna.
Arne Nature Reserve
This reserve, managed by the RSPB, is a stunning mixture of heathland and ancient woodland. Arne is situated near Wareham and Corfe, as well as being within a close drive of Swanage, Langton Matravers and Worth Matravers. The reserve sits within Poole Harbour (have a look on Google Maps to see what we mean!) which means you’ll be able to spot a variety of wading birds and those that love the water, however you’ll also be able to see some birds of prey as well. The reserve itself has plenty of walking trails, including some guided walks, a car park, cafe and a shop.
Studland and Godlingston Heath Nature Reserve
Every single reptile that is native to the UK can be found here, which makes this site so unique. The heath has an extremely varied geology, and has many different types of habitat, which unusually makes it a very inhospitable place. Because of this however, the plants and wildlife which do survive are of a much higher interest. You’ll also spot Agglestone Rock, which is said to have been thrown from the Needles by the devil and has landed in the heathland. Even if the devil himself didn’t through the rock, it’s pretty interesting as it’s not made up of the same material as the soil underneath; which begs the question, how did it get there?!
This island is the largest that sits within Poole Bay. As much as it might not technically form part of the Purbecks, it is extremely easy to get to and definitely worth a visit. You can take the chain ferry from Studland across to Sandbanks, and then take the yellow boat from Sandbanks to the island. Still home to numerous red squirrels, the island is also home to deer, lizards, minotaur beetles and peacocks. The northern half of the island is a dedicated nature reserve and has multiple bird hides overlooking the lagoon, lake and reed bed. Most famous for being the birthplace of the scouting movement, Brownsea Island was passed backwards and forwards between wealthy residents and now has many amenities and a full-time population of around 30.
So called for the colour created by diffracting particles of fine clay within the water, Blue Pool is a flooded, disused clay pit. It’s near Furzebrook, and is easy to get to from Swanage and Corfe Castle. It’s surrounded by 25 acres of heath, woodland and gorse which make a wonderful habitat for many creatures such as; rabbits, badgers, foxes, deer and dragonflies. If you’re lucky, you might also see sand lizards and smooth snakes. There is a cafe at the sight, as well as a museum and gift shop. There are two clear paths around the pool, with one being suitable for most, and another perfect for wheelchair users or those with lower mobility.
Oakers Wood and Bog
This little known area is a beautiful mix of habitats. An open heath with wet bog and woodland, the area is home to the raft spider, damselflies, the sand lizard, smooth snakes, grasshoppers and crickets. The best way to explore is to park at Culpeppers Dish and walk down to Oakers. At the bottom of the hill, the road divides and goes one way to the bog and the other to the woodland. Explore both sides to get the full interest of the area. There are defined paths however very few other facilities, so this might not be the best area to take the kids.
Nature of Dorset has been a massively helpful resource in putting together this article, check out their website for as much nature information about Dorset as you could want!