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Langton House

Dorset, England

Brownsea Island: wildlife, walks and a wetland reserve

Posted by Luci Ackers on Feb 18, 2016
Brownsea Island in Dorset
Brownsea Island in Dorset
  • Brownsea Island in Dorset
  • Red squirrel on Brownsea Island
  • Purple heather
  • Brownsea Island


Brownsea Island is tucked into Poole Harbour off the south coast of Dorset. It's a tiny island that was the birthplace of the Scout Movement in 1907, and is now mostly owned and cared for by the National Trust. A small portion to the south east of the island, along with Brownsea Castle, is unfortunately not open to the public, but the majority of the area is free for you to explore, and there's certainly lots to see!

Brownsea is protected for its great wildlife and the northern end is an important Wildlife Trust Nature Reserve. It's a wetland site with a sheltered lagoon and attracts a great range of birds, particularly waders like avocets and many different ducks. There are a number of hides dotted around for you to make use of and really get a good look at them all in the reedbeds and water. Keep your eyes open for grey herons, little egrets and common turns too.

The rest of the island is known for its red squirrel population. As these beautiful little creatures are almost extinct in southern England, they are the most important inhabitant and live in the patches of pine, oak and beech woodland that grow across the island. They're elusive little animals so you've got to really keep your eyes peeled to spot one. According to The Wildlife Trusts website there are currently around 200 red squirrels living here and they really thrive on the island because the hardier grey squirrel has never been introduced from across the water to wipe them out.

As you explore you will pass through all sorts of different habitat; as well as a variety of native woodland there is coastal habitat and the rough heathland areas of gorse and heather which is enjoyed by the island's large population sika deer. This is a non-native species originally introduced to the island from Japan in the 1800s. A small population of ornamental peacocks also roams freely.

There is a range of different walks, guided walks and trails to get involved in while here, and often a calendar of activities and events for younger visitors. In the visitor centre you'll be able to browse the gift shop or visit the museum. Grab a cuppa or sit down for something more substantial to eat in the café and make a whole day of it.

To reach the island the Brownsea Island Ferry Service departs from Sandbanks or from Poole Quay every half hour. The service runs between March and November.

For more information take a look at the National Trust website.

To stay just a short distance away, close to the coast on the Isle of Purbeck, simply enter your details below and find out more.

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Luci Ackers
Author: Luci Ackers

Luci loves getting out and about for a good cycle ride or easy-going walks in the countryside, and thoroughly enjoyed the time she previously spent working for the National Trust. Her love of writing started from a young age and on rainy days nothing beats curling up in a secret corner with a good book.

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