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Dorset – summer wildlife of coast and heath

A relaxed exploration of Dorset’s beautiful scenery and abundant wildlife, with a particular focus on some of the rare and charismatic invertebrates of the chalk downs and heathland.

We will be based near Corfe Castle in the heart of the Isle of Purbeck, the most biodiverse area of its size in the British Isles. The variety of habitats from bright heaths, and pine forests to chalk downland and stunning coastline, provides an idyllic setting to enjoy the county’s wildlife.

Purbeck is best known for its lowland heath, and we will spend a day exploring this wonderful habitat, on the look out for carnivorous plants, rare birds and any of Britain’s six native reptiles. We should find notable invertebrates that make these heaths their home, including Southern Damselfly, Silver-studded Blue, Heath Tiger Beetle and the Purbeck Mason Wasp, a stunning animal found at just a handful of sites in the country, all around here.

Further along the coast, we will spend time exploring the other key habitat locally, the chalk downland which opens up in a series of gentle whaleback hills with spectacular views of Poole Harbour, Studland and the Isle of Wight. Wild flowers that should be in flower during our visit include several species of orchid, the flowery meadows attracting in turn a variety of grassland butterflies, including Adonis Blue, Grizzled Skipper and Marbled White.

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Lulworth Cove and Durdle Door, world-famous for their geology, offer the perfect spot to look for the rare and appropriately named Lulworth Skipper, while nearby cliffs at Durlston Head give a great vantage point from which to look for passing dolphins and nesting sea birds.

Dates

15 – 19 June 2020

Leader

Phil Saunders

Price

£865

Single Room Supplement – £180

Included

Four nights’ accommodation, half board. Local transport as specified in itinerary.

Not included

Travel to Kingston, Lunches, refreshments and drinks with meals. Gratuities. Travel insurance.

Group size

Minimum 5, maximum 12.

Day 1 Our holiday starts at our accommodation in the village of Kingston, near Corfe Castle, where we will meet in time for an introduction to the holiday and our first dinner together.

Day 2 We spend our day exploring the Isle of Purbeck, home to some of the finest lowland heathland in the country. We seek out some of the rare inhabitants of the heaths, with a suite of charismatic and extremely rare invertebrates to be found. Interesting plants include all three species of British sundew, Lesser Butterfly Orchid, Dwarf Gorse, Bog Asphodel and Bog Pimpernel. The Purbeck heaths are home to all six of Britain’s native reptiles, including Sand Lizard and Smooth Snake, and we will keep an eye out for them amongst the heather.

Day 3 This morning we leave the Purbecks and head to the coast, to visit Portland. The disused quarries are home to wildflowers and butterflies: Adonis Blue, Small Blue, Dingy and Grizzled Skippers and Green Hairstreak, with Pyramidal and Bee Orchids in flower. Amongst jumbled rocks, we hope to find Common Wall Lizard, an introduced species from southern Europe which now makes its home here. From Portland we enjoy panoramic views of Chesil Beach, one of the largest shingle beaches in Britain, and at Ferrybridge we will explore the beach and shingle flora. After dinner we will head out again to listen for the churring song and wing-flapping display of Nightjars and squeaking of Woodcock as they display overhead.

Day 4 Today we head west, to the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site, world famous for its geology, with Jurassic limestones and Cretaceous chalk and clays jumbled together, resulting in the scenically carved coastline. We visit Lulworth Cove and Durdle Door, where as well as the iconic scenery, we will hope for an early Lulworth Skipper amongst the other grassland butterflies. Further east, we visit Durlston National Nature Reserve, where limestone downland is home to Common Spotted and Southern Marsh Orchids. Cliff-nesting birds include Guillemot, Razorbill and Kittiwake, which fly back and forth over the sea, and if our luck is in we might catch a glimpse of Bottle-nosed Dolphins offshore.

Day 5 One final breakfast, and then it is time to bid farewell to Kingston and to head home, hopefully taking some good memories of the special creatures and beautiful views of this part of Dorset.

Please note that the itinerary may be changed to suit the weather or other practicalities or at the discretion of the leaders.

Our accommodation will be at Kingston Country Courtyard, an authentic character farmstead B&B near Corfe Castle. The rooms are in converted farm buildings, set around two courtyards. All rooms have en suite bathrooms. Situated on a picturesque ridge amid the beautiful Purbeck Hills, there are spectacular views stretching from Corfe Castle to the distant shores of the Isle of Wight. The main garden provides a tranquil setting to enjoy these views.

We are catered on a half board basis, with breakfast and evening meals taken at the hotel, and included in the holiday price. We shall be buying packed lunches each day (not included in the holiday price). Requests for special diets can be accommodated.

Our transport for this trip will be by a small coach/minibus.

Travel to Kingston is not included in this holiday. If travelling by public transport, the nearest train station is Wareham, from where a bus can take you to Kingston, a five minute walk from the accommodation.

The English weather is of course anything but predictable. We should expect warm and sunny conditions, although who knows, the weather could be blazing sunshine one day, and cold and wet on the next! We will adapt our itinerary to the weather. It can be ‘breezy’ or even windy on the coast at times. We will not walk for long in hot or adverse weather conditions.

We will be walking for much of the day, each day, albeit at a slow pace and never covering any great distance. In some locations ‘facilities’ are scarce! You therefore need to have a reasonably good level of fitness although none of the walks are strenuous. There are likely to be steps at the hotel.