On a crisp autumn morning what can be better than wrapping up warm, donning your wellington boots and heading out for walk with the family. Within the Purbeck region there are so many beautiful walks and places to discover, but perhaps there are few that offer such an abundance of wildlife as Arne Nature Reserve.
Situated on the outskirts of Wareham, just a 20-minute drive from Ulwell Holiday Park, Arne is managed by the RSPB and open throughout the year. It occupies a unique peninsula location on the edge of Poole Harbour, which affords visitors spectacular views to Brownsea Island and comprises of a variety of landscapes and habitats, which adds to its charm and appeal.
Explore to your hearts content
As you take your first steps into the nature reserve, you will be greeted with vast woodland waiting to be explored. Tall, ancient oak trees line the trails and beautiful heather carpets the ground, creating a magical, almost mysterious environment. As you continue through the impressive forest you will reach the lowland heath for which the reserve is famed, before emerging onto a sheltered and sandy shoreline.
A team of dedicated rangers work hard to protect Arne and the animals that inhabit it. It has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest and home to a number of rare species of plants as well and wildlife, which you can learn about in the onsite information centre. Friendly RSPB volunteers are on hand to educate visitors on the conservation efforts that are being undertaken and offer great advise on seasonal things to see and do.
In the autumn months, you can expect to see migrating birds, such as Osprey’s stop in the reserve during their journey to warmer climates. You may also be lucky enough to spot species such as Spoonbill, Dartford Warbler and Nightjar from one of the reserves hides and viewing platforms as they wade in the shallows of the harbour.
November is the height of the rutting season, so it’s often possible to see Sika deer roaming freely amongst the forest. Sometimes, whole herds of deer can be seen in the heathland, which is a magnificent site to witness, even for the most seasoned visitor.
Although you are unlikely to spot them during the colder autumn/winter months, Arne is one of the only places in the United Kingdom where it is possible to find all 6 species of native reptile, including the smooth snake, grass snake and sand lizard.
Fun for all the family
Within the nature reserve there are numerous marked trails to follow, with paths set for all ages and abilities. The longest is expected to take 2 hours to complete, but there are shorter versions, perfect for visiting with children. There are also clearly marked pathways, which are level and accessible for both pushchairs and wheelchairs.
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Children will love the low ropes course on the Dumbledor Trail, which allows them to play until their hearts content on the wooden climbing frame. Throughout the year there are also a number of exciting events and activities that take place within the nature reserve, that make for a fantastic and unusual day out. Upcoming events include ‘Pull a Pine’, ‘Nature Tots’ and ‘Discover Arne’ guided walks.
There is ample parking on site, which is available free of charge to RSPB members. In addition to the visitor centre there is also a café, to reward yourself after a busy day and a shop to commemorate your visit with a souvenir. Arne is one of the best places to go wildlife watching in Dorset.
Dogs are welcome at Arne Nature Reserve but must be kept on a short lead.