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Arne and Middlebere Heath

Along the southern and western sides of Poole Harbour are extensive marshes, reed-beds and lowland heath which are designated as internationally important wintering sites for waders and wildfowl. The Arne peninsula is managed as a reserve by The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, the heathland to the south and west are managed by English Nature.

From the lookout hill on Arne near Shipstal Point (SY 983 885) there are extensive views across the harbour to Upton and Hamworthy in the north, Brownsea Island in the east, Corfe Castle and Purbeck in the south. Hard though it is to imagine, beneath this large tract of wilderness lies the largest onshore oilfield in Europe – the unobtrusiveness of the extraction operation a testimony to the environmental sensistivity with which it is being exploited.

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Heathland like that shown here once used to cover large parts of Dorset and – although pleasant to look at – can be treacherous terrain to try and cross (Middlebere Heath is the real life location for Hardy's fictional Egdon Heath). Hidden amongst the grass tufts and sphagnum moss filled pools on this particular heath can be found Sundews (Drosera intermedia) – here dissolving and digesting two Damsel flies caught on their sticky pads – and Marsh Gentians (Gentiana pneumonathe).


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In the top row of pictures:

  • Looking northwards from the lookout near Shipstal Point, across heath and the marshes of Arne Bay (picture)
  • At the Lookout, near Shipstal Point (picture)
  • Looking eastwards over Poole Harbour, Round Island in the foreground, Furzey Island (with oil derrick) beyond (picture)
  • Looking southwards across the tidal marshes and reeds (picture)
  • Purple Heather (picture)

In the bottom row of pictures:

  • Middlebere Heath (picture)
  • Hives of Honey Bees parked beside Middlebere Heath (picture)
  • Damsel Flies trapped on Sundews (picture)
  • Marsh Gentians (picture)
  • Foetid water draining off Middlebere Heath (picture)

See also: Arne at twilight, Canford Heath and Holt Heath

Arne also features in the monthly galleries August 2002 and April 2003

Nearby locations that also feature in galleries on this site:

directionStudland Bay, Poole Harbour, Brownsea Island

directionCorfe Castle


More views of Dorset in August

Other sites on the web

The Countryside Management site of Surrey County Council has an introduction to lowland heath on their 'Heathland > Heathland Basics' page

English Nature:  site giving an overview of the work and function of the organisation, with contact details for the Dorset Team.

Bestwall Quarry Archaeology Project:   ongoing excavations in the gravel quarry between Wareham and the Arne peninsula, with finds ranging from the Mesolithic right through to Post-Medieval

The Dorset Page:   Arne – local information and links to further resources on the web

Maps of the area on streetmap.co.uk:   1:50,000 – detail, 1:250,000 – locality and route to get there

picture resolution
The pictures of Arne and Middlebere in this gallery were captured at medium resolution or higher.
This is images of dorset stock photography gallery 086
All photographs copyright © 1998–2003 John Allen

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