Arne is a nature reserve in Dorset that offers seven signposted trails of different lengths for visitors of varying abilities, along with facilities and a Gift Shop and Café.
A variety of habitats within the reserve attract a large variety of wildlife, making this an excellent stop for nature lovers. The landscape consists of open heathland, ancient oak woodland, farmland, reedbed, mudflat, scrubs, wet woodland, acid grassland, and sandy beaches. The location is one of the only places where all six of the UK’s native reptiles can be found – if you’re curious, that list includes the common European adder, grass snake, smooth snake, common lizard, sand lizard, and slow worm.
Recently, Arne was expanded to include Hyde’s Heath, which is a habitat for woodlarks, nightjars, sand lizards, Dartford warblers, and other creatures. If you’re looking for a specific species, then you’ll want to plan your visit around certain times of the year. Reptiles are out in the summer, Autumn is great for deer, fishing, and the pond-dwelling raft spider, and birds are most active in spring and winter. During winter, up to 60 spoonbills feed on the reserve during the day. Each season offers a variety of animals with a different experience, so nature lovers should try to visit during all four seasons to soak up each unique opportunity.
You might want to stop by the shop before beginning your journey to stock up on bird food, bird care, binoculars, and telescopes. Experts will help you make the right choice that fits your needs, whether you’re just getting started or you’re a seasoned wildlife watcher. The Welcome Hut also offers Puffin 8×32 and Avocet 8×42 binoculars to be used during the visit for £3-5 if you don’t see a need to buy your own. Books and gifts are available here in the Shop well if you’re looking for a souvenir.
The Café starts serving breakfast at 9:30 am and lunch is from 11 am until 3 pm. Choices include kid-friendly meals, vegetarian, vegan, and organic options, scones, fresh soup, daily specials, hot and cold drinks, and a range of cakes that are served all day. Highchairs are available and baby-changing facilities are located at both the Shop & Café. You can always bring your own lunch, but remember that Café seating is reserved for visitors that have purchased something, while the picnic area features multiple picnic benches for others.
The reserve is always open. Parking starts at 8:30 am regardless of the season. From November until March, parking is available until 6 pm and hours are extended until 10 pm from April through October. The Welcome Hut opens at 9 am and the shop & café can be visited from 9:30 am until 4:30 – 5 pm respectively, seven days a week. The entrance is free for everyone, but it does cost £5 for non-RSPB members or £15 for coaches and minibusses to park. An off-road mobility scooter is available for handicapped visitors. The closest train station is Wareham and visitors can catch the Purbeck Breezer bus number 40 to be transported 3 miles from Arne. Biking is yet another option for accessing the location and bike racks are provided.
Dogs are welcomed as long as they are kept on a lead, except within the Hyde’s Heath area because of nesting birds and other timid wildlife. There are no dog waste bins on-site, so keep this in mind before visiting and come prepared.
The Arne Nature Reserve covers approximately 570 hectares of the Arne peninsular in the Isle of Purbeck. This space holds an array of different habitats, both dry and wet lowland heath and a variety of different birds, mammals and lizard species.
The mix of habitats including ancient oak woodland, farmland, reedbed, mudflats, wet woodland, acid grassland, and even sandy beaches is one of the reasons why wildlife is abundant in this area. The RSBP is continually managing and conserving all the different habitats to guarantee the survival of wildlife as well as give people the opportunity to witness the spectacle of nature. Some of the animal and plant species that you might be lucky enough to see at the reserve are; Dartword Warblers, woodlarks, nightjars, smooth snakes, heath tiger beetle, ladybird spider, Yellow Centuary (a very rare heathland plant) and the silver-studded blue butterfly amongst others.
Keeping such diverse habitats alive and thriving in such close proximity to each other is quite a challenge. The RSPB uses a range of specialized techniques to ensure that all micro-habitats maintain a balance of mixed-age heather and gorse, ensuring there is enough bare ground and managing any invasive plants such as Pine, Rhododendron, and Bracken. The nature reserve also gets some help from cattle, ponies, and pigs that you might see grazing on the rich landscape that they feed on. This grazing is actually extremely beneficial to the land as it keeps the heathland open and flat as it has been for millennia.
The reserve is very popular with locals and tourists alike and it attracts more than 100,000 visitors a year. Although the amount of visitors is quite high, all visitors are greeted at the welcome hut for a face to face welcome from a member of the conservation group. Recently, the facilities have been improved to guarantee a pleasant experience for all those visiting the reserve. A few years ago, a shop and cafe were added to the reserve and they have been a huge hit with visitors. After an afternoon walking and learning about nature and the different habitats, a bite to eat and a fresh drink are just what you would need to recharge.
The Arne Reserve is open all year round, however, all seasons have their unique highlights. In Spring, birdsong fills the reserve as different birds compete to establish their territory as well as attract mates. Woodpeckers, Stonechats, Cuckoos, Chiff Chadd and Dartford Warblers are just some of the birds that set up their home in the reserve during springtime. In summer, the insects come out to play. Dragonflies and damselflies fly around the reserve as it is home to 22 different species. When visiting in summer, you can also glimpse the beautiful silver-studded butterfly that is usually found in the wet heathland.
Autumn brings about a dramatic movement of migrating birds, some moving south to warmer climates and others seeking a temporary home in the UK, far away from the cold of the Arctic winter. In October/November, visitors have a great chance of seeing the Sika Deer as well as a profusion of fungi in the woods and fields. During the winter season, large flocks of Avocets, black-tailed Godwits, and Dunlin gather to feed at the reserve. One can also see Raptors such as march Harriers and hen Harriers that spend the whole winter at the reserve. If you’re lucky you might even see these species hunting during the day.
Educational events are held at the reserve throughout the year, including weekends and school holidays which make the reserve a great place to spend some time off as a family. There are also some wide, pushchair and wheelchair friendly paths with short routes which means all family members can enjoy the wildlife and peace that is present at the reserve. Baby changing facilities in the bathrooms and highchairs in the cafe help puts parent’s mind at ease that spending a day at the reserve with young children will be pleasant and easy.
If you enjoy the peaceful effects of nature and love to learn about different species and habitats, a day at this reserve would be a great idea for you. 90% of all net income earned at the reserve is spent on conservation, public education and advocacy so not only will you get a great day out, but you will also be helping the RSPB to safeguard all the wildlife and habitats which are present at this location.
Are you an adventurer, an avid hiker, wildlife enthusiast, or just someone who turned the page and chapter and is ready to go far from the city buzz and relax in nature and it’s beauty? If your answer is yes, then keep up with us, we are about to take you on a small tour through one of the most scenic places you could even picture. Arne RSPB. It is located in the southwest part of the country and belongs to Dorset county covering the area of 563.4 hectares or 1392 acres. It is just next to the village of the same name.
The local travel links are at the Wareham railway station and the international airport in Bournemouth is not that far, 18 km away from the village. Even though it is the heath that dominates the terrain, some woodlands and wetlands complete this whole area and emphasise it’s magical and outstanding diversity. Very rich in colour where the variety of combinations of green, purple and yellow with slight splashes of an orange mix that creates a blaze of colours which will certainly leave you breathless.
Over 500 species of vascular plants have been recorded on the Arne Nature Reserve since 1966. Vascular plants are defined as land plants that have lignified tissues for conducting water and minerals throughout the plant. The whole area is rich in wildlife, it is actually a reserve for endangered birds. It is the home of some endangered bird species like nightjar, woodlark and, on the mudflats, spoonbill. Similar to the African steppes where a herd of antelope can be spotted, Arne valleys are inhabited with various deer species. One of the most common is Sika deer, originally from East Asia, but naturalized now. Hiking trails hidden in the wood or heath may inspire your spirit to explore this area, even more, discovering it’s untouched nature. You can also take a Tramper off-road mobility scooter if you’re not keen on hiking or you’re just someone who likes quickly discovering nature.
If you fancy bird watching you can always find a peaceful spot for enjoying the view for hours. Unlike many other vibrant, long stretching and overcrowded beaches, Arne beach is a little bit secluded but has quite enough space to walk by and soak up the sun on a nice, lovely day. There are seven signposted natural trails of different lengths and abilities. If you don’t seem to like long-distance walking or any other sort of connecting with nature, this area is providing multiple picnic benches where you can bring your food, relax and chill with your family and friends.
For any questions and concerns, people from the visitor center will be at your disposal. It works all 7 days from 9 am until 4:30 pm. Also, there is a shop where you can buy a range of bird foods, bird care, gifts, and books. It offers a lot of equipment and has experts who will help you if you’re just starting to explore the wildlife.
After long walks and hiking and you feel hungry or thirsty you can go and grab some snacks and have a drink at the local cafe. They offer breakfast and lunch, with the adjusted menu for vegans, vegetarians, and people who are allergic to gluten. Organic food and children’s menu are included as well.
Despite a lack of hotel accommodation and facilities, the proximity of towns such as Poole and Bournemouth which are large coastal towns gives enough possibilities to book a room and to be as close as possible to this wildlife jewel, if you’re planning to spend some more time in this picturesque area.
How to Get to Arne RSPB
By Train: Wareham is the nearest station. It is possible to catch the bus from the train station.
By Bus: The Purbeck Breezer #40 stops at Stoborough Green. Arne RSPB is approximately 3 miles from the bus stop. Follow New Road for 0.4 miles, then turn right onto Arne Road.
By Bike: Arne Nature Reserve is accessible by bike. Bike racks are located in the main car park and near the cafe. The bridleway, which leads to Shipstal beach, can also be accessed by bike.
By Road: From Wareham town centre, head south to Stoborough. Once through Stoborough, turn left onto New Road. Turn right at the crossroads in the village of Ridge, and then follow the road for approximately 3 miles to Arne. The car park will be found on the right at Arne village.