Best place in Britain for reptiles

Higher Hyde Heath Nature Reserve is one best places in Britain to see all six native British reptiles, including smooth snake and sand lizard. More here.


Similar opportunities to bag the six reptiles are also found in Dorset at the RSPB Arne nature reserve. Arne, which overlooks Poole Harbour, is home to open heathland (including the rare heather known as Dorset heath Erica ciliaris) and old oak woodland, and supports breeding Dartford warblers and a substantial herd of naturalised sika deer.

Large numbers of avocets winter in Poole Harbour. See here for more and for bird boat tips.

Arne has also hosted the BBC’s Autumnwatch and Winterwatch. According to Chris Packham, this is one of teh most biodiverse spots in the UK.

Brownsea Island

Across Poole Harbour is the The National Trust reserve of Brownsea Island, famed for being home to one of the very few populations of red squirrels in Southern England, protected here from grey squirrels by the narrow stretch of the harbour, which incidentally is one of the largest natural harbours in Europe. In 2016, a long-term study began to assess the presence of leprosy among the 200-strong native squirrel population in the contained environment of this small island.

The island also has a notable presence of wintering avocets, attracting as many as 1500 birds, half the British population.

Bill Oddie’s favourite bird hide is apparently on Brownsea.

You’ve a chance of spotting a common seal on the boat over to Brownsea.

Possible site of Thomas Hardy’s fictitious Egdon Heath

Egdon Heath is a fictitious area of Thomas Hardy’s Wessex. It may be based on Duddle Heath, behind Hardy’s childhood home. Wikipedia

Best wildflower meadows

Kingcombe Meadows is famous for some of the best remaning wildflower meadows in the UK. Here


Dorset Wildlife Trust’s snorkel trail around Kimmeridge Bay, part of the Purbeck Marine Wildlife Reserve, is one of the best snorkelling locations in Britain.

More details from the Fine Foundation marine centre. The centre has  interactive displays and aquarium. Masks and snorkels are also for hire


Dartmoor has the largest expanse of semi-wildland in Southern England grazed by some 1500 half-feral Dartmoor ponies. The mainly granite bedrock,  the largest area of this rock in Britain, is exposed in hilltops as rocks locally and famously known as tors.

Wistman’s Wood is a remnant of ancient woodland that covered much of Dartmoor until it began to be cleared some 7000 years ago during the Mesolithic. It was saved from perhaps ever being felled by the incredibly rocky ground here made of granite blocks known locally as clitter among which stunted and twisted oaks manage to grow, all encrusted in numerous species of mosses, lichens and ferns, their bearded appearance giving rise to the local legend that the wood was inhabited by druids. It is considered an outstanding example of native upland oak woodland.

Dinosaur first

Mary Anning discovered one of the first known dinosaur skeletons – an ichthyosaurus – near Lyme Regis in Dorset in 1811.


On 18 July 1955, the village of Martinstown, near Weymouth, received the highest amount of rain ever recorded in the UK : 279mm in 24 hours, representing three times the area’s average monthly rain in a single day.

Bournemouth’s foxes

A study by Brighton and Reading universities has found that Bournemouth with its abundance of suburban greenery  has the highest concentration of urban foxes in the UK with 23 aniamls per square kilometre. Here

Robert Macfarlane’s Holloway

Holloway, Robert Macfarlane’s memorable colloboration with the artist Stanley Donwood and the writer Dan Richards was based on a trip with his friend Roger Deakin, to investigate the holloways around Chideock, Dorset.

Eight years ago this July, I drove down to Dorset with my friend Roger Deakin, to explore the holloways of the area around Chideock. Holloways – the word comes from the Anglo-Saxon hol weg, hollow way – are paths that, over centuries of use, have sunk down into the landscape through which they run, worn into the earth by footfall, wheel-roll and rain-rush. Some of them are twenty feet deep and steep-sided: more ravine than road. Many have been overgrown by the trees that border them, so that they’ve become green-roofed tunnels. They’re too deep to fill in and farm, and often too narrow to take vehicles, so holloways are often wild places: filled with brambles, nettles, ferns, bees, badgers, ivy and history. Robert Macfarlane on the background to the book

See also:


Nature Reserves of Dorset A personal guide to the nature reserves of Dorset and their wildlife