travel

VISITING ARNE ON THE ISLE OF PURBECK

My wife and I are continuing our holiday in Dorset, dodging the rain and trying to minimise our spending. Today we visited the RSPB site at Arne, on the Isle of Purbeck. This is a nature reserve for birds and reptiles.

Although access to the walking tracks in Arne is free, there is a charge of £5 for the car park (free for RSPB members). I was happy to pay this to support the good work that RSPB are doing protecting our wildlife. The facilities in Arne are normally good, with an information centre, cafe, souvenir shop, and toilets. However, because of Covid-19 the volunteers had setup in tent at the overflow car park, and the facilities other than the toilets were closed – the main reason for visiting being the wildlife, was of course still accessible. Surprisingly dogs are welcome on leads. We had left ours back at the holiday home, assuming they would not be able to come because the RSPB would want to protect the birds.

Wildlife Sign
Wildlife in Arne

Arne offers numerous colour-coded signposted walks through woods and fields, on paved track and dirt and sandy path. I particularly enjoyed walking through the wooded enclaves of bracken as it reminded me of my earlier years practising manoeuvres for the Territorial Army. This time though we were looking out for wildlife rather than enemy soldiers.

I recommend taking the green route, leaving the car park to the north and then heading right. The green route is a circular walking path, so soon there is a choice to go left or right. Turning slightly to the right again brings us straight into the forest on a dirt track, rather than turning left and following a road. Either way will after about 25 minutes get to the beach. A little bit longer if you are looking out for wildlife.

Beach in Arne
Beach in Arne

A highlight of many of the routes at Arne, the beach is where the path meets the sea. This thin area of sand provides an opportunity to view Poole Harbour and explore for sand lizards. It is not a touristy or swimming beach, so don’t bring you swimming costume.

Erosion on Cliffs in Arne
Erosion on Cliffs in Arne

My wife and I spent about 10 minutes in the beach area admiring the view and looking at the interesting patterns that erosion has made in the cliffs. Then it was on with the walk. This second half of the walk provides multiple little diversions up to viewing points. Because the weather was quite windy we did not climb the small hill.

Ant Hill in Arne
Ant Hill in Arne

Instead we continued on the track that shortly turned into a road and led us back to the car park. We did however stop to look at an ant hill that the wood ants were building. It was fascinating watching thousands of ants working together. It was these wood ants and a couple of stags in the distance that were the main wildlife that we saw during our visit to Arne. I am told that there is a large number of spiders, lizards, and birds, but we did not see them (happy to have not seen the spiders). This was probably because of the windy weather causing them to all stay in their burrows or nests.

Exposed Tree Roots in Arne
Exposed Tree Roots in Arne

Would I go to Arne again? Yes. For £5 a car, this is a cheap day out, so we didn’t spend much of our holiday budget. For members of RSPB it is free parking. The walk was nice and provided different views than the rest of the area. Next time I would probably choose a warmer and calmer day in the hope of seeing more wildlife. I hope that you have a good time if you choose to go.

If you are looking for a more strenuous walk then I would suggest the walk between Swanage and Studland. Rather than an hour-long walk in Arne, the walk over from Swanage to Studland and back can take five hours, particularly if you take a short break at the pub half way.

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