6 of the best picnic spots in Dorset
PUBLISHED: 11:52 23 May 2017 | UPDATED: 11:52 23 May 2017
Eating alfresco allows you to immerse yourself in the natural world. So grab a blanket, pack a picnic and enjoy these wildlife-rich landscapes, with magnificent views suggested by Dorset Wildlife Trust
Townsend Nature Reserve, Swanage
Enjoy lovely coastal views of Swanage Bay along with a wonderful array of wildflowers, including orchids in late spring. The area attracts the rare Adonis blue butterfly which enjoys the low growing nectar rich plants. Look out for spring and summer flowers such as early gentian and yellow rattle. If you want to go on a little adventure of your own then there are footpath links to Durlston Country Park and towards Worth Matravers to the west.
• How to get there: Head to Swanage on the A351 towards Panorama Road (BH19 2QT). Follow the road around the bend and up the hill – the reserve is on the left-hand side with a small area for parking.
Lorton Meadows Nature Reserve, Weymouth
A haven of meadows, hedgerows and woodland, this reserve offers a chance to experience some fabulous Dorset wildlife right in the middle of town. Lorton Meadows is home to unimproved fields, thick hedgerows and small copses, which wildlife loves, as well as great views towards Weymouth. In summer this special nature reserve is filled with colourful wildflowers, birds and butterflies. There is a picnic area with benches, a wildlife play-trail for children to burn off some energy, and a conservation centre so you can learn more about what lives here.
• How to get there: Take the A354 relief road from Dorchester to Weymouth, turn right at the Sainsbury’s roundabout and then right again on Dorchester Road. Keep on this road and turn right onto Lorton Lane, over the bridge and follow signs for the centre (DT3 5QH)
Brownsea Island, Poole Harbour
What could be more magical than going for a picnic adventure on an island. Brownsea Island was the inspiration for the Famous Five’s mysterious Whispering Island, it is also a very special place for wildlife, with diverse habitats including a lagoon and a woodland area which is home to the red squirrels of Brownsea.
DWT leases and manages a nature reserve from the National Trust. This is without doubt a fabulous location for a picnic - our favourite picnic spot is in front of the DWT Villa. On your way there stop off at the bird hides for spectacular views of internationally important wading birds, and keep an eye out for red squirrels scurrying around on the woodland floor.
• How to get there: Public ferries run daily to the island from Sandbanks and Poole Quay between March and November nationaltrust.org.uk/brownsea-island.
Kimmeridge Bay, Purbeck
If the Famous Five were to go rock pooling this is where they would go. Kimmeridge Bay, situated on the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site, is an ideal spot for a picnic by the sea and Kimmeridge is the county’s top rock pooling location.
The open, grassy areas overlooking Kimmeridge Bay offer views of the spectacular Gad Cliff as well as views to the Isle of Portland. Why not try some eco-crabbing on the seashore? Visit the Fine Foundation Marine Centre for your kits and check out the small aquarium there, so you can see what lives beneath the waves. Explore the rockpools at low-tide to see prawns, sea anemones or even an inquisitive blenny!
• How to get there: Heading south from Wareham, turn off the A351 for Springfield Country Hotel, heading towards Creech. Follow the road up the hill to Church Knowle, then turn right to Kimmeridge. £5 parking fee.
Stonehill Down Nature Reserve, Purbeck
Another nature reserve in Famous Five country, set high on the chalk ridge running west/east across the Isle of Purbeck, with far reaching views across Wareham Forest, with Poole Harbour to the east.
Common spotted, early purple and bee orchids can be seen in early summer here, while the autumn lady’s tresses orchid can be found from late August. If you want to walk off your picnic lunch, DWT Kilwood Nature Reserve is a spectacular woodland area full of bird song nearby. Common butterflies seen here include the brown argus, dingy skipper and small heath.
• How to get there: Heading south from Wareham, turn off the A351 for Springfield Country Hotel and continue straight on this road, take the second left to East Creech, where access is at the top of the hill. Limited roadside parking.
Kingcombe Meadows Nature Reserve, West Dorset
Escape to the peace and tranquillity of Kingcombe Meadows and step back to a time when all farms teemed with wildlife and wildflowers.
Managed as a traditional working farm, the result is a patchwork of fields of unimproved flower-rich grassland, broken up by hedges, streams, ponds, green lanes and wooded areas – all wonderful places to explore.. There is an impressive display of wild summer flowers in the hay meadows and the array of wildlife is dazzling, due to such a wide range of habitats. Keep your eyes peeled for early purple orchid, marsh fritillary butterfly, kingfishers and dormice.
• How to get there: From Dorchester take the A37 to Yeovil and head towards Maiden Newton. Follow signs to Tollor Porcorum and turn right to Lower Kingcombe. Follow signs for the Kingcombe Centre for parking (DT2 0EQ).