"To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour."

From "Auguries of Innocence"

by William Blake

Monday, 14 July 2014

DORSET - Part 6 : 2nd July - Brownsea Island

On Wednesday we drove to Poole and caught a ferry to Brownsea Island. The island measures 1.5 x 0.75 miles and covers 500 acres comprising a mix of habitats - heathland, pinewoods, saltmarsh, beaches, broad-leaved woodland and a brackish lagoon.

There has been some sort of settlement on the island since at least 500 BC. In the ninth century monks of Cerne Abbey, near Dorchester, built a chapel on the island but this was destroyed by Viking raiders. Following the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 1530's, Henry VIII took control of the island and built the first Brownsea Castle as one of a string of forts built along the South coast to protect England from invasion. In 1726 a William Benson renovated the castle which had become dilapidated and planted many trees and shrubs. In the nineteenth century a community built up on the island based on china clay mines. The last private owner was Mrs Mary Bonham-Christie who bought the island for £125,000 in 1927. She was opposed to blood sports and exploitation of animals by man - she banned fishing and allowed the farm animals to roam free and the island returned to its natural habitat of heathland and woodland. During Word War 2 the island suffered much damage as it was lit up at night to act as a decoy to distract German bombers from nearby Poole and Bournemouth. Following Mrs Bonham-Christie's death the island was given to the National Trust and opened to the public in 1963.

Photos, apart from the final one, taken with the 70-300 lens which rather has its limitations so not so many photos today.

Setting off on the ferry from Poole quay.

Looking back towards Poole

This lagoon is part of the Dorset Wildlife Trust Reserve which covers nearly half the island. I saw my first Little Egrets and Sandwich Terns of the year here as we arrived.

Brownsea Castle

A statue of Lord Baden-Powell who held the first scout camp on the island in 1907.

I was rather interested in exploring the Dorset Wildlife Trust but the family, map in hand, were away on one of the National Trust trails round the island. Its a beautiful place to walk around though and when we stopped for lunch we were lucky enough to see one of the 200 Red Squirrels that live on the island. No photo I am afraid it was too far away and running along the ground and up and down trees in such a rapid fashion that I would never have got the camera to focus. It does show the importance of sitting still for a while and letting the wildlife come to you.

A damselfly - not a good enough photo to see the various id features but I think it is possibly Common Blue.

You can tell I stopped to look at the damselfly - family are already disappearing into the distance :(

A monument to the first scout camp.

Peahen and family

When we finally got back to the Visitor Centre we had another Red Squirrel sighting and this time I managed a record shot. It had come for food supplied on a table behind one of the Vistor Centre windows.

It was a real shame that we didn't have time to visit the Wildlife Trust Reserve. To be honest I think I would have preferred this to walking round the island. The reserve comprises a large wetland area with a lagoon, reedbeds, woodland and a freshwater lake. There are several hides and water voles (how I long to see one of these again) and sika deer can be seen.

Anyway it was time to get back on the ferry and say goodbye to Brownsea for a trip round the harbour and some of the other islands.

You can see the Isle of Wight in the distance in this photo.

I'm sure the commentary on the boat mentioned that houses at Sandbanks cost about £9 million!!! TBH if I had 9 million, I can think of far better places to live but there again this house on its own little island was rather lovely and probably worth whatever it cost.

A view of my "other boat" as we came back to the quayside!!!

For any other Enid Blyton fans out there it is said that Brownsea Island provided Enid Blyton with inspiration for "Whispering Island" in the penultimate Famous Five Book - "Five have a Mystery to Solve".

We had a quick look round a few of the shops in Poole and E wanted to visit the headquarters of Lush.

B found a superb, if rather expensive, Caterham 7 model in a model shop which I've now bought him for Christmas - one less present to worry about later in the year!

We arrived back on the Isle of Purbeck quite late so decided to stop off for a meal. Unfortunately B re-enacted the same "Goldilocks and the 3 Bears" type scenario that we last saw in Norfolk. The first pub was lovely but B decreed it "too expensive". D did manage to get this nice photo of Corfe Castle though from the pub garden - what a view!!!!

We travelled onto the Square and Compass in Worth Matravers - a very picturesque "smugglers" type pub with a wonderful fossil museum and home-brewed beers and ciders. B wasn't impressed that they only served pies and decreed there was "too little selection". It didn't deter D and I we were that hungry that we wolfed down a very tasty cheese and vegetable pie.

In the end B and E went for a meal at a pub near our cottage which was "just the right price" and "just the right amount of meal choices"!!

A picture of one of the cute donkeys in a field at the front of the cottage - they used to come trotting over to say hello when I was collecting bramble leaves for the caterpillars.


Countryside Tales said...

Fantastic that you saw red squirrels and managed to get a piccy too. Brownsea is on my list for this summer now that we're NT members :-)

Lovely shot of Corfe too :-)

Em Parkinson said...

I've always wanted to go to Brownsea but never have, so thank you for a brilliant tour!

Ragged Robin said...

Countryside Tales - Many thanks :) Yes well worth a visit but you do have to pay extra for the ferry. We could only find 2 in Poole and they charged £10 per person which included harbour tour. There is a ferry from Sandbanks about £6 each I think that just goes to the island but we were told parking there dearer!! DWLT reserve is £2 extra if not members of Dorset WLT but from what I could see it was well worth the £2. So wish we'd had time to visit that part. But its a great day out and I would love to go again.

Em Parkinson - Thanks so much. Yes, I've wanted to go for years and years too - its well worth it if you are ever in the area.

Margaret Adamson said...

Hi ct. Great trip and one that when I am on the iow that Eileen and I someday want to do but I was disappointed that you had not visited the wetlands etc. however the post with photos was very interesting.

Ragged Robin said...

Margaret Adamson - Thanks Margaret - I am so glad you enjoyed the post. Yes, it is a shame about not visiting the wetlands :( but I will make that first port of call if we return!

Pete Duxon said...

bizarrely on my one trip to Brownsea I saw quite a few Red Squirrels !! someone else said recently they had struggled!!

Ragged Robin said...

Pete Duxon - In one of the guidebook or leaflets I bought/picked up it does mention that the chance of sightings can vary depending on the time of year you visit.

Bovey Belle said...

Happy memories of trips to Brownsea too, and I'm glad you did see a Red Squirrel closer to.

I know the Square and Compass WELL and was only discussing it with a chap (ex-Dorset, like us) last weekend at the boot sale. I said in my day, all they had to offer foodwise was Cornish Pasties or Crisps! Sounds like it hasn't altered the menu that much, and such a lovely pub to go to (better than the ones in Corfe!)

Back in the day, we always started the New Year off with a Purbeck walk, and lunch (liquid!) at the S&C.

Ragged Robin said...

Bovey Belle - Thank you :) I am so glad I am bringing back all these happy memories for you :)

The Square and Compass was such an atmospheric pub - for some reason it reminded me of the Merrily Watkins books - think it was the presence of a cider caravan!! Yes, food sounds the same - just pies (one Vegetarian (Cheese and Vegetable which was delicious) and Steak and potato (I think from memory). No chips with it but there were boxes and boxes of crisps behind the bar!!!

I can't imagine a more lovely way to see in the New Year :)

Chris Rohrer said...

I very much enjoyed this journey and photo series. What a gorgeous island and boat ride! Congrats on the Little Egrets and Sandwich Terns:) Remember when Id'ing a tern, check to see if it dipped its' bill in mustard:) If it has, then you've got yourself a Sandwich Tern.

And such is "problem" with people who just walk. It's difficult at times as they leave us behind trying to observe something closer or even photograph it:) It's okay, but I sometimes find it frustrating because essentially one is just skimming the area and not really getting to observe all the amazing things that are hiding or in the shadows:) Plus if they're talking.....:)

Ragged Robin said...

Chris Rohrer - Thanks so much Chris - I am so pleased you enjoyed the post and photos :) Love the id tip of Sandwich Tern - will never forget that one!!! Sadly I missed a great photo opportunity of a Common Tern hovering just by the boat by the time I'd got the lens cap off and aimed it had gone :(

Really agree with your comments in last paragraph. I really don't understand my husband he always used to moan at people who route marched and missed so much and now he seems to have morphed into one himself!!