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Where is this?

Brownsea Island is in a picturesque small island in Poole Harbour in Dorset. It is owned by the National Trust and one of the few remaining homes of the red squirrel in England.

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Brownsea Island, Dorset

We packed our picnics, donned our walking shoes, and stuffed our waterproofs into our daysacks just in case, then set sail from Poole Harbour on a beautiful spring day, ready to explore the National Trust island of Brownsea.

red squirrel

The ferry ticket at £8.50 provided excellent value -- almost a cruise in itself, with a public address system describing local features and history.  In addition to dropping us off, the ferry continued its circuit not only of Brownsea but also some smaller islands nearby, some of which were privately owned, while on another discreet oil drilling was taking place. 

We landed on the jetty, situated next to Brownsea Castle, which is not open to the public, and immediately headed for the Villano Café to plan our walk.  The weather was fine, allowing us to enjoy the sunshine in the courtyard, with its wonderful harbour views. As the entrance ticket also provided us with a map, we decided our route.  We walked gently up past Church Field, along the appropriately named Middle Street, before veering left past the farm, to explore the numerous viewpoints from the clifftop along the south shore.  Unfortunately, the daffodil fields were not in bloom, being too late in the season, but we enjoyed the various habitats and darting butterflies, before heading down to the beach for an early lunch.  Here we were able to watch close up the water sports activities from the nearby outdoor activity centre, as well as a pair of canoeists who we later saw crossing Poole Harbour and heading back towards the town. 

Further along the south shore, we saw the site of Baden Powell’s camp in 1907, and the remains of the nineteenth century pottery – not the brightly coloured and fashionable table pottery that we see nowadays, but the industrial pottery for drains, pipes, and sewers of Victorian England.  Amazingly, the shoreline was still strewn with the damaged and broken remains. 

Continuing along the beach as far as possible towards the Pottery Pier, and then back up the clifftop path, we passed the site of Maryland village, and reflected on how our ancestors lived, farmed, and fished in previous times. 

The North side of Brownsea Island

The north side of the island comprises lakes, reed beds, a wetland lagoon, and protected habitats, so we returned past the Bat Hibernaculum along Middle Street, enjoying the shade from the trees. Our carefully packed waterproofs were an unnecessary burden, as the sun was now quite hot, and we called in at the public hide to see if we could recognize any of the birds and wildfowl shown.

Rewarding ourselves with an ice cream each while we waited for the ferry, we reflected on what a varied natural and historic landscape the island afforded, and agreed to return during a different season for an alternative view.

August 2009


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