CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Dorset Magazine today CLICK HERE

What it’s like to live on Brownsea Island

PUBLISHED: 11:16 26 September 2017 | UPDATED: 11:16 26 September 2017

Cormorant golden hour on Brownsea

Cormorant golden hour on Brownsea


Living on Brownsea Island is a dream realised for lifelong wildlife enthusiast Nicki Tutton

Living on an island is the stuff dreams. The excitement of a boat trip, followed by a day of discovering the wildlife of Brownsea Island is an adventure in itself. But for a handful of people from the National Trust, the island’s owners, and Dorset Wildlife Trust (DWT), who manage the nature reserve there, this is their everyday life. Nicki Tutton is a true ‘islander’, having worked on Brownsea for 12 years for the National Trust and also as a DWT volunteer. She was upgraded to a full-time island resident in 2015, and is assistant warden for DWT.

The rhythm of island living is dictated by the seasons. With summer, comes long sunny days when visitors flock to the island, but the dark days of winter are a stark contrast to this. “It takes a fair bit of adjustment to live here. I moved here during October, the tail end of the season which meant the island closed not long after,” Nicki recalls. “Being here every day without members of the public visiting or our daytime volunteers coming onto the island was a bit odd at first, but I soon got used to the quiet.”

Logistics are also somewhat challenging too on this car free island, especially in winter. “When it’s dark and rainy and I have lots to carry from my car to the boat, and then across to the island, I think how easy it would be to park outside my front door and just walk in. Then I remind myself that I’m one of the lucky few who have the privilege of living on this beautiful island year round.”

Getting on and off Brownsea is weather dependent, conditions control the running of the boat service, especially in winter. Last year Nicki didn’t leave the island for several days due to the sea being so rough, but being prepared with a good supply of food and drink, means the disruption is minimal. “People often ask how I do my food shopping. Everything has to come over on the boat - so weight, amount and size of items is always a consideration, as is having a vehicle available on arrival to transport it all to DWT’s Villa, where I live. I have to confess that I do sometimes miss being able to order a takeaway or pop to the shop, but it’s a small price to pay for living here.”

Nicki’s lifelong passion for nature certainly helped her to get her dream job. “Growing up I was always off exploring, climbing trees, sifting through a pond or watching the activity around an ants’ nest. I started bird watching seriously when I was about eight years old. On Brownsea we are lucky to have a wide variety of nesting, over wintering and migrant birds, and some great hides to get close to them. This year I set myself a challenge to learn more about moths, I was terrified of them until I attend my first moth trap on Brownsea many years ago!”

So what would be a typical day on Brownsea Island for Nicki? “Even though there’s always a plan for the day, you never know what will come up, that’s why I love my job. During the summer season I could be helping to check bat boxes, fixing the board walk, or leading a guided tour. I love showing off the island to visitors. During the winter is when all the ‘heavy’ work is done. You could find me chain-sawing a fallen tree, cutting firewood for the Villa’s wood burning stoves, or up to my knees in mud in the lagoon weeding the tern islands.”

Whatever the season, life on Brownsea is never boring for Nicki: “Whether you’re lucky enough to live here, or just visiting for the day, you’ll enjoy a magical experience. It could help pave the way for you to develop a love for wildlife, just like it did for me. That’s if you haven’t fallen for it already!”

Find out more at


Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Dorset visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Dorset staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Dorset account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from Out & About

From your first step, you will see superb views from hilltops and farmland footpaths on this walk

Read more
Sunday, November 11, 2018

Martin Clunes and his family have called West Dorset home for over two decades. Here he shares some of their favourite local places

Read more
Monday, November 5, 2018

To mark the centenary of the end of World War One we visit some of the memorials erected across Dorset to remember the fallen in the ‘war to end all wars’

Read more
Friday, October 26, 2018

This lovely walk takes us from watercress beds to a church famous for its life-size carvings of apostles

Read more
Thursday, October 25, 2018

Autumn is a great time to brush up on your gardening knowledge with the help of some experts, as well as see some well known gardens in a different light

Read more
Wednesday, October 24, 2018

The guide to Dorset’s best firework displays and bonfire events happening in 2018

Read more
Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Prepare to experience the paranormal this Hallowe’en as Visit Dorset reveals some of the county’s most haunted pubs, stately homes, historic buildings and tanks

Read more
Monday, October 15, 2018

From festive light switch-ons and Santa’s Grottos, to German Christmas markets and late-night shopping, we’ve covered what’s on in Dorset this season

Read more
Monday, October 15, 2018

Dorset villages are some of the most beautiful in England – think winding lanes, thatched cottages and a cosy pub or welcoming tea room. We suggest ten of the prettiest villages to visit in the county

Read more
Friday, September 14, 2018

Follow in the footsteps of the Romans on this lovely walk that takes in rare habitat, ancient woodland and glorious views

Read more
Tuesday, September 11, 2018

This challenging coastal walk rewards your efforts with spectacular views along the Jurassic Coast

Read more
Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Marine photographer Steve Belasco shares some very special wildlife moments

Read more
Wednesday, September 5, 2018

TravelSupermarket has uncovered the top 25 most popular UK beaches on Instagram after analysing hashtags used for over 1,100 beaches and Bournemouth comes out on top

Read more
Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Ride + Stride, Dorset Historic Churches Trust’s annual fundraising event, is a great way to explore and support some of the county’s more unusual places of worship

Read more
A+ South & South West

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Topics of Interest

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad

Local Business Directory

Property Search