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Head ranger Reuben shares his top 10 features of Brownsea Island

PUBLISHED: 16:56 12 March 2014 | UPDATED: 16:56 12 March 2014

The National Trust's landing stage and Brownsea Castle. Photo - Edward Griffiths

The National Trust's landing stage and Brownsea Castle. Photo - Edward Griffiths

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A compilation of some of the best things to see and do in Brownsea Island

One of the resident male peacocks puts on an impressive display. Photo - Ann & Robert ReynoldsOne of the resident male peacocks puts on an impressive display. Photo - Ann & Robert Reynolds

1 Wonderful Wildlife

Brownsea is the perfect place to spot avocets, black-tailed godwits and golden pheasants. There is a lagoon (run by the Dorset Wildlife Trust) and five hides. We have about 200 to 250 red squirrels on the island – one of only two places on the South Coast to have them. They’re very rare and it’s simply because greys – who kill off reds by spreading disease and fighting - have never made it onto the island. Sika deer were imported to Brownsea about 100 years ago. There are only 27 on the island and they are very beautiful.

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2 Walking Trails

There are eight miles of trails criss-crossing the island. And we are constantly trying to improve them. For the 50th anniversary last year we cut a winding path into pine trees in the middle of the island. We call it The Maze. It’s magical.

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3 A Magical Place for Children

Brownsea Island is made for adventure. There’s a tree-climbing trail which is a lot of fun. There’s also what we call the TV Area – a log bench and a hollow old tree in front of it that looks a bit like a television. Kids love it. This year we’re building a natural play area near the heath: stepping stones and ropes. The opportunities to explore – just like the Famous Five - are endless. Enid Blyton refers to Brownsea in her books as both Whispering Island and Kirin Island.

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4 The Open Air Theatre

Every summer there is a three-week Shakespeare run on the field by the church put on by Brownsea Open Air Theatre (BOAT) who last year celebrated their 50th anniversary. Last year, our volunteers put on Pericles and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, 4,000 people came to the performances. It’s always a real spectacle. This year’s performance is Henry IV (23 July – 8 August). Tickets are on sale now (£21 including ferry crossing) book online at brownsea-theatre.co.uk or call the box office on 01202 251987.

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5 Beautiful Beaches

There are three cracking beaches on Brownsea - Castle Beach, which belongs to the castle, South Beach and Maryland. Hardly anyone seems ever to spend much time at Maryland but it’s glorious. In summer, we get up to 2,000 visitors a day but Maryland is never, ever busy.

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6 Holiday on the Island

The National Trust now has two holiday cottages to rent on Brownsea. We’ve had all sorts of guests staying in them: from millionaires to people who used to work here.

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7 A Taste of Brownsea

Our local café Villano has stunning views across Poole Harbour. A new manager took over two years ago and the food really is fantastic and draws on lots of local seasonal produce. I’m a vegetarian but I’m told the venison stew is out of this world. They serve a range of hot and cold lunches, sandwiches, cakes and their famous cream teas throughout the day. Or pick up a packed lunch to enjoy in a special spot on the island.

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8 Camping on Brownsea

The Scout movement started on Brownsea back in 1907 when Baden-Powell organised a camping holiday for boys of different social backgrounds where they would learn a variety of skills from camping and lifesaving to chivalry and patriotism. The centenary of Scouting took place on Brownsea on 1 August 2007. The island’s campsite accepts organised groups of up to 200.

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9 Watery Pursuits

There is plenty to see from the waters surrounding Brownsea. Kayaking the four miles round Brownsea Island is one of life’s great pleasures. We’re currently putting together a free waterproof map for a new kayak trail round the harbour. For those who enjoy their wild swimming - the tough, annual round-island swim happens every July. Last year 250 swimmers took part. I was one of them! This year’s swim is 13 July and is organised by the RLSS Poole Lifeguard, enter online at rlss-poole.org.uk or visit their Facebook page: brownseaswim2014.

For more information email brownseaswim2014@rlss-poole.org.uk.

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10 A Peaceful Retreat

Brownsea Island is a wonderfully tranquil place. Visitors aren’t allowed to bring bicycles, cars or dogs to the island. All you can hear is water and wildlife. Bliss!

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