David Beeson, May 2023
If you were to progress from Southampton, on the south coast of England, westwards through the New Forest and to the up-market resort of Bournemouth, you would now be in the mostly rural county of Dorset. This is Thomas Hardy country. If you read my regular posts you will already know of the huge (in UK terms!) wildlife reserve near Wareham – RSPB Arne, NT heathlands and the sand dunes at Studland – Purbeck Heaths. Further west is Weymouth, backed by chalky hills and beyond the long pebble ridge of Chesil Bank. These are all delightfully ‘old’ country areas with cattle-strewn meadows, thick hedgerows and eventually the clay and sandy geology of the Jurassic Coast, famous for the myriads of fossils that are regularly exposed on the coast in spots like Charmouth and Lyme Regis. Here you would be in southwest Dorset and bordering on the next county, Devon.
With a lack of large towns or industry, this part of Dorset is comparatively rich in wildlife interest. The Dorset Wildlife Trust owns conservation land here, including Kingcombe Meadows, a National Nature Reserve. For those of us that enjoy semi-wild spots, Kingcombe is a delight.
However, first you need to find this out-of-the-way place! So, be prepared for narrow confusing roads. Have a map as well as a Satnav! Avoid arriving on Monday or Tuesday as the café is closed. We arrived on a Tuesday, sadly. And, arrive early as parking is very limited.
Much of the NNR is a farm that avoided being plastered in herbicides and pesticides and being ploughed. It is a farm from the 1930s with unimproved, species-rich meadows, thick thorny hedgerows, ancient green lanes, wet meadows and both an abundance of bird life and hazel dormice.
The map of the site shows dozens of small, hedged fields, coppiced and wild woodland, a natural river and small ponds. There are two signed routes, however, you are free to wander the reserve.
In Late April, with a cold wet spring, the plants were only just awakening but a visit in June onwards would wow your botanical and animal senses. Believe me, it will be worth the journey.
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The homepage is http://www.nwhwildlife.org