A guide to the varied Nature and Wildlife attractions in Purbeck

This picturesque part of Dorset is famous for its spectacular natural landscape. Purbeck has a wonderful diverse, natural landscape, much located on the banks of Poole Harbour, reputed to be the largest natural harbour in the world.

Poole Harbour
Nature and Wildlife at RSPB Arne in Purbeck
Nature and Wildlife at RSPB Arne in Purbeck

Purbeck Heaths National Nature Reserve

Did you know that Purbeck is one of the most biodiverse places in the UK? Recently this nature rich area gained recognition as the UK’s first super National Nature Reserve. 

Purbeck Heaths combines 3 existing National Nature Reserves at Stoborough Heath, Hartland Moor, and Studland and Godlingston Heath, linking them with a significant amount of new land which includes nature reserves and conservation areas managed by seven landowning partners. 

The Purbeck Heaths National Reserve (NNR) is a site of national and international importance and is also forms part of the unique landscape of the Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

Purbeck Heaths consists of a varied terrain of lowland wet and dry heath, valley mires, acid grassland and woodland, coastal sand dunes, lakes and saltmarsh. These habitats support a wide variety of insects, reptiles, birds and specialised plants that are rarely found elsewhere. 

Over two hundred and fifty years ago, heathlands in Dorset 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.

The new Super National Nature Reserve brings together a better and more joined up area in Purbeck for wildlife and their habitats to thrive and for visitors to discover and enjoy. Spanning over three thousand hectares across Purbeck including Studland, Corfe Castle, Arne, Church Knowle, and Steeple with Tyneham. The Purbeck Heaths are home to tens of thousands of species including many that are rare and threatened.

It is one of the very few landscapes in the UK that is home to all 6 native reptiles, as well as a number of heathland birds, raptors, wildfowl, rare native plants, bat species and important heathland insects and butterflies. Find out more about on the Purbeck Heaths Website.

Some of the central points to explore Purbeck Heaths are Purbeck Park, RSPB Arne and The Blue Pool. 

Even more nature and wildlife to explore...

Explore Purbeck's Coast

Other places not to miss for their natural riches are Durlston Country Park, in Swanage which has some stunning coastal habitats to discover and the National Trust’s Studland Bay.

Find out more about nature and wildlife attractions on Purbeck’s  Jurassic Coast. 

Old Harry Rocks

Visit some amazing rock formations on the Jurassic Coast

Studland Bay and Beach

Stunning natural beaches and heathland

Durlston Country Park and Castle

Stunning Landscapes and Amazing Wildlife

Tyneham ‘ghost’ Village and Worbarrow Bay

Where time stopped in 1943

The Etches Collection

Museum of Jurassic Marine Life

Dorset Wildlife Trust

The Dorset Wildlife Trust also has a number of nearby nature reserves in the area. These nature reserves are home to many rare and common species of plants, mammals, birds, reptiles and invertebrates and also play a vital role as core nature-rich sites from which wildlife can spread across the landscape. The nature reserves are open to everyone, 365 days a year. Check out the Stonehill

Down Nature Reserve, Kilwood Nature Reserve, Wild  Woodbury, Higher Hyde Heath and the Fine Foundation Wild Seas Centre at Kimmeridge.

Stonehill Nature Reserve Dorset Wildlife Trust

Wild Woodbury

A pioneering community-based rewilding project

Stonehill Down Nature Reserve

Church Knowle
High on the chalk ridge in the Isle of Purbeck, this downland reserve has far-reaching views across to Poole Harbour

Kilwood Nature Reserve

Church Knowle
‘Ancient and regenerating woodland over former clay mining, dating back to Roman times’

Higher Hyde Heath Nature Reserve

An internationally important area of dry & wet lowland heathland & woodland

Fine Foundation Wild Seas Centre

An interactive marine centre situated at Kimmeridge Bay on the Jurassic Coast

Birds of Poole Harbour

Purbeck borders much of Poole Harbour, which is a haven for local widlife and supports a stunning variety of birdlife throughout the year. Whether it’s the 25,000 wetland birds seeking shelter during the winter months or the arrival of long-distance migrants from sub-saharan Africa for the summer, there’s plenty to see and learn about locally!

Birds of Poole Harbour’s website hosts an interactive guide to help you learn when and where the best places are to watch birds locally.

Birds of Poole Harbour
Wareham's Water Meadows
Nature and Wildlife on the River PIddle in Wareham
Wildlife on Wareham's River - Swans on the River PIddle

Rivers and Water Meadows

Wareham’s location between the River Frome and the River Piddle make it an ideal location to explore the wildlife and nature on the river banks and watermeadows.  Find out more at Visit Wareham

Wareham Quay River Cruises

Enjoy a trip down the River Frome

Wareham Boat Hire

Motor Boats, Kayaks, Canoes and more

Wareham Forest

Wareham Forest is another great place to explore and discover the famous heaths and woods of the Dorset countryside, with many miles of tracks. This area also includes the nature reserve Morden Bog, famous for its spectacular open heathland and bogs and home to some of the oldest heather plants to be found in Dorset. 

Places to visit near Purbec Wareham Forest
Purbeck Safari Tours in Dorset
Cycling at Purbeck Park in Dorset
Great Walks and Cycling at Wareham Forest
Swanage Railway and Corfe Castle in Purbeck

Fun ways to explore Purbeck

Purbeck is a fantastic place to explore and enjoy the rich variety of nature and wildlife on the south coast. If you don’t want to use the are there’s fantastic options for walking, cycling and boat trips as well as Purbeck’s very own heritage railway from Swanage to Corfe and Wareham! You can even book a Jeep Safari tour too!

Wareham Quay River Cruises

Enjoy a trip down the River Frome

Swanage Railway

A fun way to enjoy a family day out on Dorset’s Jurassic Coast

Purbeck Safari

Experience the beauty, magic and wildlife of Purbeck

Events taking place at Nature and Wildlife Attractions in and around Purbeck

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