Walk, run, cycle or ride through miles of woodland and heathland tracks in the 3,700 acre Wareham Forest, on the Isle of Purbeck’s doorstep.
Follow the spacious designated cycling and bridle paths, or explore the intricate walking routes through the trees to discover the wealth of wildlife living in this special area of Dorset.
With various starting points, there are plenty of opportunities for a different adventure each time you visit Wareham Forest. One of the most popular spots to park up, go for an explore and stop for a picnic is the Sika Trail (a seven-mile trail named after the deer who roam freely here) – it’s the easiest way to access the forest trails from the Swanage, Wareham, Studland, Bere Regis and Sandford directions.
Trails are generally flat with a few manageable inclines. Note that horse riders require a permit – contact Forestry England (formerly The Forestry Commission) directly.
Wareham Forest is open from dawn to dusk throughout the year.
A haven for wildlife
Discover all the flora and fauna of Wareham Forest at different times of the year.
As a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) Forestry England works hard to ensure the delicate ecosystems that support a wide range of habitats for both plant and animal life are protected.
The forest is home to the captivating sika deer, as well all six native British reptiles including the smooth snake and the sand lizard – one of the UK’s most rare reptiles (the nearby famous Studland Bay and surrounding heathland habitats also support these protected species). Keep an eye out too for the many bird species that called the forest their home, including the distinctive and once-threatened Dartford Warbler.
Depending on the time of year, you’ll be treated to vast swathes of heather and pockets of gorse, and flowers such as foxgloves in summer and mushrooms like the distinctive fly algaric in autumn/winter.
🐾 Note that, while dogs are welcome all year round in the forest, there may occasionally be notices up reminding owners to keep dogs on a lead due to the presence of grazing animals or ground-nesting birds, such as raw rare woodlark – keep an ear out for its attractive song (follow the Woodlark walking trail for a gentle 3km /2m stroll through the forest).
Some of Wareham Forest’s resident wildlife
You might be lucky enough to see or simply hear these animals, birds and creatures on your ramble, as well as an array of insects, butterflies and plant life:
Being a natural playground, there are no facilities at Wareham Forest, but many nearby places to stop for a bite to eat or to use the loo.
The nearest pub is The Silent Woman, which is situated along the Bere Road in Cold Harbour. Wareham itself has numerous cafés, bakeries, pubs and restaurants, as well as public toilets on the quay.
Conservation & restoration
Sadly, a large part of Wareham Forest was destroyed due to a huge fire. In May 2020, firefighters tackled a blaze that burned for almost two weeks, devastating around 550 acres of land (the equivalent of 350 football pitches) that may take decades to recover.
Wildfires are more common during or after periods of hot and/or dry weather, and as such warning signs may be present in the forest at these times.
Along with helping to restore the landscape and habitats after the 2020 fire, there are continuing conservation projects in the forest, such as the restoration of important wetlands and bogs, which support both the forest as a whole and a range of plant life and insects.
Stay in the forest – at Wareham Forest Tourist Park
If your idea of the perfect family holiday is underneath a canopy of leaves or amongst spacious, well-kept grounds with immediate access into the heart of miles of forest to explore, you can stay at the 5-star Wareham Forest Tourist Park.
It’s both dog and family-friendly, has an on-site shop, easy access into Wareham town and the bus and taxi services to the beach, shopping and restaurants of Swanage, and a fantastic, heated outdoor swimming pool, it’s easy to see why the caravan and camping site welcomes return visitors year after year.
Directions & parking
Park for free at one of Wareham Forest’s dedicated car parks.
All car parks for Wareham Forest can be found off the Bere Road, with the Sika Trail being the most popular and easily accessed from Swanage and the rest of Purbeck.
Sika Trail car park postcode: BH20 7PE
If you’re coming from Swanage, take the A351 all the way to Wareham, turning onto Bere Road at the Saxon roundabout. Follow the Bere Road for around one mile and the entrance to the car park will be on your right. Note that there’s a slight hill just after the turning into the car park, so approach with caution and be aware of traffic coming from the other direction).
Journey time: The drive from Swanage takes around 25 minutes.
You can also park at the following locations:
- Woolsbarrow (ancient burial hill fort located on Bloxworth Heath) BH20 7ED
- Stroud Bridge BH20 7NZ
- Sugar Hill
You can also take the bus to Wareham Forest from Swanage. The No 40 Purbeck Breezer bus stops right outside Wareham train station, which connects to the SouthWestern Railway London-Waterloo service.
It’s a short walk from the bus stop into the forest from here – the best route is via the Northport Greenway, through Northmoor Park. The route, which runs from the forest through to Wareham Quay is signposted.
If you’re arriving from Wareham or via the train with your bike, follow the Northport Greenway for direct and safe access into the forest.
Note that the Sika Trail Cycle Hire facility is no longer open, but you can book a hire bike to be delivered to Wareham Cycleworks (located at the nearby train station) from Purbeck’s Cyclexperience, based at Norden Station, near Corfe Castle.
Cyclexperience contact details
Explore the Isle of Purbeck on two wheels by hiring a bike:
- 📞 01929 481606
- ℹ️ www.cyclex.co.uk/hire-dorset
Wareham Cycleworks details
Get in touch with Wareham’s bicycles sales and repair service:
- ℹ️ www.warehamcycleworks.com
- 📞 01929 556601
Contact information for Wareham Forest
To find out more about Forestry England’s work, other great sites to visit, or to enquire about volunteering, visit their website: www.forestryengland.uk
- 📞 0300 067 4600
- 📥 email@example.com