Studland Heath in Dorset, England - July 2011
Walking on Heathland in the summer is quite an experience. The habitat looks more like you would see in the Mediterranean. It does not look a typical British habitat but it is. Sadly we have lost 80% of our heathland and could lose more if we do not protect them. Heathland is a good habitat for many invertebrates some which are not found elsewhere as well as plants which can only be found here. Southern heathland is a good place to see the Dartford Warbler a bird which has a restricted range in the UK. I saw many Dartford warblers on Studland Heath and the site of them perching on top of gorse bushes and singing their scratchy song is memorable part of the visit.
Studland and Godlingston Heath NNR
The Studland and Godlingston Heath NNR is on the Isle of Purbeck on the southern side of Poole Harbour, 4 km north of Swanage.
Main habitats: Lowland Heath
Area: 631 Ha
Although most NNRs are managed by Natural England, 88 are wholly or partly managed by other bodies approved by Council, under Section 35 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
The Studland and Godlingston Heath reserve is owned and managed by the National Trust .
The reserve includes 5 km of sandy beaches and has outstanding wildlife interest supporting a wide variety of habitats: heathland, woodland, scrub, bogs, freshwater and sand dunes. The reserve is of international nature conservation significance. All six British reptile species can be found here and there are large wildfowl populations.
Any time of year is suitable for a visit, with wildfowl being the main drawing point in winter, and heathland wildlife in the summer.
How to get there
By car, access to the area is via the B3351 from the A351. The B3351 terminates on the coast at the village of Studland and from here a minor road (Ferry Road) runs north through the reserve to South Haven Point. There are a number of car parks in Studland and within the reserve.
A regular ferry services from Poole Harbour to South Haven Point is provided by the Sandbanks Ferry .
The nearest train station is in Wareham (8 km to the north west) served by South West Trains . A seasonal steam locomotive rail service between Swanage and the town of Norden (mid-way between Swanage and Wareham) is provided by the Swanage Railway .
Local bus services from Wareham to Swanage, and from Swanage to South Haven Point via Studland are provided by the Wilts and Dorset Bus Company . Bus services to Wareham are also provided by First Group .
The reserve is on the route of a National Trail, the South West Coast Path , and there are also three cycle routes in the area: the Sandbanks Ferry Link, which runs the length of the reserve from Swanage via Studland, the Purbeck Cycleway and Route 2 of the Sustrans National Cycle Network.
There is a wide variety of accommodation in the area, both on the Isle of Purbeck and in Poole .
There is a visitor centre at Knoll Beach 1 km north of Studland. The centre has a seasonal cafe and shop and there are other refreshment facilities on the beachfront within the reserve. There are also designated picnic and barbecue areas.
There are a number of toilets along the beachfront. All have baby-changing facilities.
There are disabled toilets along the beachfront with RADAR locks. Wheelchairs and pushchairs adapted for use on sand are available for hire and a boardwalk provides easy access to the beach.
Wardens are available to give guided tours of the reserve and there are a number of nature trails through the site ranging from 400 metres to 1.5 km. Leaflets and signs are also available to aid visitors.
What to see
Little Sea: sand dune ridges have built up over the last 400 years to enclose an acidic freshwater lake - the Little Sea - in the north of the reserve. The lake attracts wintering wildfowl and there are four hides overlooking Little Sea. An inlet of Poole Harbour can be viewed from a hide at Brands Bay to the west of Little Sea.
Agglestone: a conspicuous landmark, the Agglestone is a large block of iron-rich sandstone which has resisted erosion.
Godlingston Heath: the heath is one of the largest remaining tracts of lowland heathland. The site supports large populations of Dartford warblers, nightjars and all six British reptile species. Wintering waders feed here at low tide and many then move to the north end of Studland beach to rest at high tide. Little egrets roost throughout the winter. The reserve also has particularly rich populations of dragonflies, grasshoppers, bees and wasps.
As well as wildlife there are archaeological remains throughout the reserve, ranging from mysterious man-made hollows, barrows and standing stones to 20th century bunkers (pill boxes) and shell holes.