Poole Harbour is just stuffed with places to watch birds. On the south side you meet up with the north side of of the Isle of Purbeck, (access by ferry in summer).

The Isle of Purbeck is one of those misnomers in English Geography, as it isn’t an island, although you do have to go right around the houses to get to it. It’s also full of geological marvels. For some reason I never went on a school field trip (or any other field trip) there, although most people I know have. The ridge is the last hurrah of the chalk downs, squeezed up through various other interesting sedimentary and metamorphic rock, including the tar sands at Kimmeridge Bay, well known for their fossils. I know I visited there, possibly in the late 90s when I was doing a Geology course with Open University, so went once when I was visiting the parents. I remember it being a surprisingly long way.

The Poole Harbour complex

Arne is one of my parent’s favourite RSPB reserves, and it’s being featured on BBC’s Springwatch this month (starting last week). I looked into a trip there during lockdown, or soon after… never went, though. It’s a long drive from where I live now, and we used to think it was a long way from my parent’s house. Despite the mileage not being that great, it’s probably still the best part of two hours, because of all the small roads once you get off the nice new dual carriageway–the ones that have cut swathes off various reserves and sites of special scientific interest (SSSIs) in their way.

What I hadn’t realised, not really, was that Arne is just one of about a dozen top class nature reserves surrounding and in Poole Harbour, to which you can add Studland Bay, as it’s contiguous. Poole Harbour is reckoned to be the second largest natural harbour in the world, but I can’t find a citation (in the books that cite that).

This is a popular holiday area, so I marked it down as somewhere we might take a cottage for a week, since I could never do it justice driving from home. I was surprised to only find one which looked suitable. The rest are either too upmarket or too small! I only spent one evening looking, so I may have missed some good ones.

Places I’d focus on:

View of Arne – RSPB.org.uk

Arne – famous for Dartford Warblers, even if I have seen one elsewhere. Lots of open paths through the heathland, and overlooking the west of the harbour area. My parents used to go there annually.

Brownsea Island – Probably known to all Girl Guides and Boys Scouts as it was a classic camp for them, and also known for its red squirrels – the only recognised colony south of Lancashire, I think.

Studland – ‘undoubtedly one of the finest areas for heathland natural history in the region’ (Betton 2023). Studland was formed as a National Nature Resrve in 1962 and quadrupled in size in 1980. It is managed by the National Trust, and key for dragonfly species as well as birds, amphibians and more.

Wareham Forest and Canford Heath, although I have been orienteering several times on these areas – lovely Dorset Heathland and too many Forestry Commission trees, but the nightjars like them in season (when they are regenerating).I vividly remember night orienteering up high on Canford Heath one fireworks night. The moon was up and the silver sand meant that headtorches were really unnecessary – but the blighters coming in the other direction still blinded me with theirs! The fireworks were fun, too – they were quieter in those days.

Corfe Castle – not for the birds, although there may be some good corvids.

Then after crossing on the little ferry – Poole Harbour itself, and lots more places to seawatch and cliffwatch as you go around the coast towards Bournemouth.

More of my #30DaysLive

  • Breeding Bird Survey (darn I meant to take photos for next week)
  • BTO Zoom course on identifying bumblebees (Wednesday)

Isle of Purbeck and Poole Harbour #30DaysWild
Tagged on:                 

6 thoughts on “Isle of Purbeck and Poole Harbour #30DaysWild

  • 8 June, 2023 at 9:57 am

    Too long since I was so far south, but love seeing the birds during winter breaks in Northumberland and the Borders & late spring in Orkney/Shetland. Last year, sadly, bird flu restricted access.

  • 8 June, 2023 at 2:31 pm

    Beautiful place! I’d be sure to have my binoculars!

  • 8 June, 2023 at 7:14 pm

    Nice! I’m willing to drive up to a couple of hours for a day out.

  • 13 June, 2023 at 12:49 pm

    What an amazing place to visit. I just love it

Comments are closed.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers: