Arne Reedbeds

The estuarine reedbeds which form the NNR are part of the RSPB’s nature reserve at Arne which offers an unusual and special landscape where you can enjoy a vast expanse of open heathland and woodland on the shores of Poole Harbour.

Main habitats: coastal

Management: Arne Reedbeds NNR is owned by Natural England and managed by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB).

Features of interest

Further information about the NNR, its wildlife and how to visit can be found on the RSPB website.

Contact

Telephone: 01929 553 360
Email: arne@rspb.org.uk

Durlston

Durlston NNR has a variety of habitats, including sea cliffs, coastal limestone downland, hay meadows, hedgerows and woodland.

Main habitats: coastal

Management: Durlston NNR is owned and managed by Dorset County Council

Features of interest

Further information about the NNR, its wildlife and how to visit can be found on the Durlston page of the Dorset for you website.

Contact

Telephone: 01929 424 443
Email: info@durlston.co.uk

Hambledon Hill

Hambledon Hill NNR is an area of dramatic chalk grassland that rises steeply between the Stour and Iwerne valleys.

Main habitats: lowland grassland

Area: 73 hectares

Features of interest

The hilltop is encircled by an Iron Age earthwork and there are extensive and complex Neolithic features, making it a site of major archaeological importance. The grassland provides the main wildlife interest at the site but there are also areas of mixed scrub and a small yew wood.

See the site visitor leaflet for more information about the reserve, its wildlife and archaeology.

There’s also a natural history leaflet for this reserve.

Directions

On foot

Two major trails cross the reserve, the Stour Valley Way and the Wessex Ridgeway.

By cycle

Child Okeford is on Route 25 of the Sustrans National Cycle Network.

By train

The nearest train station is Gillingham

By bus

Regular bus services run along the A350 from Gillingham to Blandford Forum, within 2 km of the reserve. There are less frequent services from Gillingham to Child Okeford. For details see the Transport Direct website

By car

Access to the reserve is via minor roads from the A357 and A350. There is a car park on the minor road from Child Okeford immediately to the south of the reserve.

Contact

For more information about the reserve contact Natural England Enquiries, telephone 0300 060 3900 or email enquiries@naturalengland.org.uk

Hartland Moor

This picturesque corner of Dorset is famous for its spectacular mosaic of open heathland and bogs which support some of England’s rarest wildlife.

Main habitat: lowland heath made up of dry heath and valley mire

Features of interest

Hartland Moor forms part of the unique landscape of the Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). The reserve is next to Stoborough Heath NNR and is managed as a connected unit.

The reserve is a site of national and European importance for its lowland heathland, which supports insects, reptiles and birds that are rarely found elsewhere and supports many specialised plants and animals.

Typical plants found on site are ling, cross-leaved heath, bell heather, bog asphodel, white beak sedge, western gorse, and rarities such as Dorset heath, marsh gentian and bog orchid. Heathland insects include rare heath and large marsh grasshoppers, and the site supports birds such as Dartford warbler, hobby, meadow pipit, stonechat, nightjar and hen-harrier.

At a height of 34 metres, the highest point on the reserve is the Great Knoll or Hartnoll Barrow, a probable Bronze Age round barrow. A series of enclosure banks and ditches of either Roman-British or Prehistoric origin straddle Snag Valley.

For more information about Dorset’s heathland visit the dorsetforyou.com website.

Directions

On foot

There are a number of walks and trails that cross the NNR. The reserve is listed as part of the Fieldfare Trust’s Millennium Miles project as having disabled access via the Hartland Way, a 410 metre track that follows Scotland Road - the path of a disused tramline. The path is accessed via a gate opposite the turning to Middlebere Farm, and includes a birdwatching hide.

By train

The nearest station is Wareham. A seasonal steam locomotive service between Norden and Swanage (10 kilometres to the south east) is provided by the Swanage Railway.

By bus

Local bus services connecting Wareham and Swanage pass near the reserve on the A351. Contact the Wilts and Dorset Bus Company for details. Bus services to Wareham are also provided by First Group.

By car

The site is accessed via minor roads from the A351. Local villages include Arne, Stoborough Green, Ridge and Norden. The nearest car parks are in Norden (3 km to the south), Arne and Ridge.

Contact

For more information contact Natural England Enquiries, tel. 0300 060 3900 or email enquiries@naturalengland.org.uk

Hog Cliff

Hog Cliff NNR is a chalk downland area comprising three seperate sites centred on Hog Cliff Hill.

Main habitats: lowland grassland

Features of interest

The reserve forms part of the wider Cerne and Sydling Downs Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and is important for populations of the marsh fritillary butterfly, a scarce species throughout Europe.

Other butterflies found on the reserve during the summer include the rare adonis blue, the green hairstreak, common blue, gatekeeper, grizzled skipper and dingy skipper.

The grassland supports a wide range of grasses, herbs and flowering plants such as sheep’s fescue, horseshoe vetch, autumn gentian, clustered bellflower, rockrose, small scabious, devil’s bit, chalk milkwort, and betony. Over 100 species of fungi have been recorded including eight species of waxcap.

See the site visitor leaflet for more details.

Directions

By cycle

Maiden Newton is on the route of the Wessex Ridgeway trail. It is also on Route 26 of Sustrans National Cycle Network.

By train

The nearest train station is at Maiden Newton

By bus

Bus services run from Dorchester along both the A356 and A37 to local towns. See the Traveline SW website for details.

On foot

The public rights of way network links Maiden Newton with Hog Cliff. The Wessex Ridgeway trail passes close to the reserve.

Contact

To find out more about the reserve, contact site staff on telephone 07810 297886

Holt Heath

Holt Heath NNR is one of Dorset’s largest remaining areas of lowland heathland

Main habitats: lowland heath

Features of interest

To the north west of the heath are two separate areas of semi-natural ancient woodland (Holt Forest and Holt Wood) that are also part of the reserve

Dry heath, wet heath and mire communities are all represented at the site. Local plants include common heather, bell heather, cross-leaved heath, bog asphodel, sundews and marsh gentian.

Birds include large populations of Dartford warbler, stonechat and nightjar. The heath is Dorset’s only site for breeding curlew and all six of Britain’s reptile species are found here.

The reserve’s woodland is predominantly oak - many of which are magnificent old pollards - with some areas dominated by beech.

The best time to visit the site is July and August for wild flowers.

Directions

By cycle

West Moors is on the path of a local cycle route and trail called the Castleman Trailway.

By train

The nearest station is Bournemouth served by South West Trains and Virgin Trains.

By bus

There are regular bus services from Bournemouth to Ferndown and less frequent services to West Moors and other local villages. For details see Transport Direct

By car

The reserve is accessed via minor roads from the A31, B3078 and B3072. There is a car park on the Heath’s western boundary.

Contact

For more information contact Natural England Enquiries, tel. 0300 060 3900 or email enquiries@naturalengland.org.uk

Holton Heath

Holton Heath is an extensive area of woodland and lowland heath. Due to the unsafe nature of the site, the area known as Sandford Heath is the only part of this reserve which is publically accessible.

Main habitats: woodland and lowland heath

Area: 117 hectares (Sandford Heath 21 hectares)

Features of interest

Two hundred years ago, Dorset’s heathland covered over 150 square miles in vast tracts divided only by river valleys. Today only around 30 square miles remain, much of it in small fragments. These sites now represent around 10% of Britain’s heathland, and 2% of all that remains in Europe as a whole. Together with our partners, Natural England is reconnecting some of these isolated fragments.

Entering the site from the western access near Sandford you’ll find an area of woodland that includes beech, alder and birch. This gradually changes to mature Scots pine, before you emerge from the trees onto the open heath.

When the reserve was bought by Natural England, conifers had already spread over much of the heathland. Many of these trees have now been removed and heather has been quick to re-colonise the land, growing back vigorously from dormant seed in the soil.

The eastern part of the site was once part of the Royal Naval cordite factory, which produced explosives during the Second World War. An imposing gun tower can still be seen, one of a ring of anti-aircraft defences that once protected the factory.

Directions

By train

The nearest station is Holton Heath, which is 250 metres from the eastern entrance to the reserve.

By bus

The Wilts and Dorset Bus Co (01983 927005) operates the 40 bus between Poole, Wareham and Swanage. There are bus stops along the A351, within a short walk of the entrances. First Group (0871 200 2233) operates the X53 service between Dorchester, Wareham and Poole.

By car

Sandford Heath is 4km along the A351 north east of Wareham. There is on road parking in Station Road.

Contact

For further information regarding this reserve telephone 0300 060 6000 and ask to speak to the reserve manager.

Horn Park Quarry

This National Nature Reserve is currently closed to the public.

Main habitat: geology

As a sensitive fossil site located on a privately owned industrial estate, access to Horn Park Quarry is controlled and requires prior arrangement with Natural England. To arrange a visit, contact the senior reserve manager on 07899 731404.

Features of interest

Horn Park Quarry is the smallest NNR in Britain, being just one acre or 0.32 hectares in size. The exposed strata belong to the Aalenian, Bajocian and lowest Bathonian stages of the Middle Jurassic, deposited between approximately 188 and 175 million years ago. Collectively these strata constitute the Inferior Oolite series.

The reserve is important because it contains the most complete Aalenian ammonite succession known to date in England, with all four Aalenian ammonite zones being present. It is an internationally important site for the study and correlation of Aalenian rocks throughout Britain and across Europe.

The limestones contain an extremely diverse and well preserved fossil fauna dominated by ammonites and bivalves. One of the most spectacular features is the ‘fossil bed’ - a layer packed with ammonites, bivalves, brachiopods, sponges and fossil wood which lies sandwiched between other, less fossiliferous strata.

Contact

For more information contact the senior reserve manager on 07899 731404

Morden Bog

This picturesque corner of Dorset is famous for its spectacular mosaic of open heathland and bogs which support some of England’s rarest wildlife.

Main habitats: lowland heath made up of dry and wet heath, bog and valley mire

Features of interest

The majority of this National Nature Reserve is also designated as Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSI), Special Area of Conservation (SAC), Special Area of Conservation (SPA) and Ramsar.

Morden Bog is one of the largest valley mire habitats in England, with the dry heath slopes in the north of the reserve containing some of the oldest heather plants to be found in Dorset.

The lowland heathland supports insects, reptiles and birds that are rarely found elsewhere and many specialised plants and animals.

There are many dragonfly species and the plant life includes the rare marsh clubmoss and brown beak sedge. Also found are bog asphodel and carnivorous plants such as the common sundew and bladderwort.

To the north of the reserve, dry heath areas are dominated by heather. Here the site supports birds such as woodlark and nightjar, and reptiles such as smooth snake and sand lizard.

Directions

By train

The nearest station is Wareham.

By bus

A bus service from Wareham passes near the reserve. Contact the Wilts and Dorset Bus Company for details.

By car

The B3075 forms part of the site’s eastern boundary and access to the reserve is via tracks from this road. There is a car park off the B3075, 2 km north of its junction with the A351.

Contact

For more information contact Natural England Enquiries, tel. 0300 060 3900 or email enquiries@naturalengland.org.uk

Stoborough Heath

This picturesque corner of Dorset is famous for its spectacular mosaic of open heathland and bogs which support some of England’s rarest wildlife.

Main habitats: lowland heath made up of dry heath, mire and acid grassland reverting to heath

Features of interest

The majority of this National Nature Reserve is also designated as Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSI), Special Area of Conservation (SAC), Special Area of Conservation (SPA) and Ramsar.

Catch a glimpse of dragonflies darting across the wet heath, look out for hardy ponies grazing, explore trails that follow part of an old mineral tramway and enjoy views of the surrounding countryside, including Poole Harbour and the ruins of Corfe Castle.

Directions

By train

The nearest station is Wareham. A seasonal steam locomotive service between Norden and Swanage (10 kilometres to the south east) is provided by the Swanage Railway.

By bus

Local bus services connecting Wareham and Swanage pass near the reserve on the A351. Contact the Wilts and Dorset Bus Company for details. Bus services to Wareham are also provided by First Group.

By car

By car, the site is accessed via minor roads from the A351. Local villages include Arne, Stoborough Green, Ridge and Norden. There is free car parking on site.

Contact

For more information contact Natural England Enquiries, tel. 0300 060 3900 or email enquiries@naturalengland.org.uk

Studland and Godlingston Heath

Forming the southern arm of the entrance to Poole Harbour, Studland and Godlingston Heath NNR has one of the largest tracts of lowland heathland in the UK. It has a large freshwater lake and a sand dune system.

Main habitat: lowland heath

Management: Studland and Godlingston Heath NNR is managed by the National Trust.

Further information about the NNR, its wildlife and how to visit can be found on the Studland Beach page of the National Trust website

Contact

National Trust

Telephone 01929 450500 or email: studlandbeach@nationaltrust.org.uk

Valley of Stones

The Valley of Stones NNR derives its name from the impressive ‘train’ of boulders tumbling down the slope and floor of the dry chalk valley.

Main habitats: lowland grassland

Features of interest

The Valley of Stones is considered to have one of the finest examples of a Sarsen stone boulder train in Great Britain. Freeze/thaw conditions at end of the last ice age caused sandstone on top of nearby chalk hilltops to fragment and slump downhill. There is evidence that the site was used as an ancient ‘quarry’ with stones being taken from the area for use at other local megalithic sites.

The stones are set within a wider landscape of dry valleys and slopes of upper chalk that include extensive areas of fine calcareous grassland that is rich in butterflies and wild flowers.

Within the reserve, well preserved medieval field patterns can be seen on some of the steep sides of the dry valleys and slopes of upper chalk.

The surrounding areas of calcareous grassland support many species of butterfly and wild flowers including clustered bellflower and autumn gentian. Colonies of the adonis blue butterfly can be found on the steep south facing grassland slopes.

See the site visitor leaflet for more details.

Directions

By cycle

The reserve is on Route 2 of the Sustrans National Cycle Network.

By train

The nearest station is Upwey.

By bus

Bus services run from Upwey along both the A35 (via Dorchester) and the B3157 (via Weymouth). See details on the Traveline SW website.

By car

Access to the reserve is by minor roads from the A35 and B3157. The nearest car park is located 0.5 miles from the site, near the National Trust’s Hardy Monument.

On foot

The Valley of Stones is near to the Jubilee Trail, the Macmillan Way and close to the South West Coastal Path.

Contact

To find out more about the reserve, contact site staff by telephone: 07899 731404