Dorset - autumn natural history
A relaxed exploration of Dorset’s beautiful scenery and abundant wildlife, with a particular focus on some of the characteristic, charismatic invertebrates of the chalk downs and heathland.
26 – 30 September 2022
Single Room Supplement – £180
Four nights accommodation, full board. Local transport and entry fees as specified in itinerary.
Travel to Corfe Castle. Refreshments. Gratuities. Travel insurance. Covid tests and associated costs.
Minimum 4, maximum 12.
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 our first morning exploring this wonderful habitat, on the look out for carnivorous plants and birds of prey, along with a suite of characteristic birds of the heathlands: Dartford Warbler, Stonechat and Woodlark. We will also pay attention to the notable invertebrates that make these heaths their home, including various late-season dragonflies, moths and bees.
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. Lulworth Cove and Durdle Door, w orld-famous for their geology, offer the perfect spot to explore.
We will spend a day around the Isle of Portland, an area famous for its migrating birds, where late-flying butterflies may be found in sheltered, sunny spots, and take a boat trip across Poole Harbour, to spend some time on Brownsea Island, home to one of southern England’s last populations of Red Squirrels.
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 morning exploring the Isle of Purbeck, home to the finest lowland heathland in the country. In the damper parts of the site, we will look for butterworts and delicate sundews, carnivorous plants which grow on the edge of the pools, which are home to several species of dragonfly, with Common Darter and Migrant Hawker amongst those species hopefully still on the wing. Dartford Warblers follow Stonechat from gorse to gorse, a late lingering Hobby or early winter Merlin may be hunting over the heather, and we may even catch a glimpse of an Osprey or White-tailed Eagle from the nearby reintroduction projects. We then 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 will visit Lulworth Cove and Durdle Door, where we will take a walk through the iconic scenery.
Day 3 We leave the Purbecks and head to the coast, to visit, according to Hardy, ‘that Gibraltar of the north’ – Portland. The disused quarries on Portland are home to wildflowers and butterflies. Amongst the jumbled rocks, we hope to find Common Wall Lizard, an introduced species from southern Europe, which now makes its home on the south-facing slopes here. Portland Bill is famous as a migration hotspot, and we will seek out whatever birds are on the move, which could include various warbler, chats, thrushes and buntings. From Portland we will enjoy panoramic views of Chesil Beach, one of the largest shingle beaches in Britain.
Day 4 We spend today around Poole Harbour, one of the largest natural harbours in Europe and home to a great variety of important habitats and large numbers of migrating birds. We will take the foot ferry across to the National Trust’s Brownsea Island. We will visit the lagoon and its bird hides, where we will look for Avocet, Spoonbill and Little Egrets. And we will spend some time in the pine woods, home to one of southern England’s last surviving populations of Red Squirrels.
Day 5 One final breakfast, and then it is time to bid farewell to Dorset and to head home, hopefully taking some good memories of the special creatures and beautiful views of this part of the world.
Please note that the itinerary may be changed to suit the weather or other practicalities 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 full board basis, with breakfast and evening meals taken at the hotel, and picnic lunches provided, 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
The holiday starts and finishes at our accommodation in Kingston.
You can reach Wareham by train. Kingston can be reached by bus from Wareham or we can arrange a taxi.
Kingston lies around six miles south of Wareham.
The English weather is of course anything but predictable, particularly so in the autumn, and 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
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.