England - Poole
- Location: England - Poole
- Categories: Spring / Summer / Autumn / Winter / Marine west coast / Coastal / Islands / Forest / Wood / Marsh / Rural / Beach / Sea / Lake / River / Stream
- Duration: 3 Hours
- Distance: 1-5 Miles
Walking the trail:
- Summary: Brownsea Island is a great place to try and spot the rare Red Squirrel along the south coast of England. Lovely scenery, miles of woodland and coastal paths together with even more wildlife make this a great day day out. Hop on the ferry and enjoy!
In my search for the rare Red Squirrel in southern England, (after a few failed trips to the Isle of Wight where they also live) my attention got focused on the small island of Brownsea which is just a small trip over the water from Poole harbour in Dorset. Weirdly being on my doorstep I had never heard of the island before, crazy really but I guess my passion for Wildlife photography is fairly new and this place I would say is more of a wildlife trip rather than a hiking adventure. Wildlife and walking are now becoming what I look for in my days out in the countryside with the camera. This place is perfect for both.
Brownsea Island is part of the National and wildlife trusts. To get there you need to book a ferry and entrance ticket from the national trust web site as below:
Ferries go from 9.30 to 1.30 which gives you approx. 3 hours on the island before you need to return. My adult non member ticket was £17.50 which is really good value for a 4 hour day trip. The yellow Wildlife Trust ferry is only a 15 minute crossing on which you can either sit below or above deck. The ferry is also boarded from The Quay in Poole opposite the Lord Nelson Pub.
I was actually quite surprised at how big the island is and how much you can do there. 3 hours is certainly not enough time to find all its secrets. However, for me that represents a great value day out plus the option of returning, which I will definitely do in when Autumn really starts to deliver its seasonal colours. I managed to walk the complete circular walk and a side walk up to some of the wildlife trust bird hides (currently closed unfortunately) and that was almost 6 miles of walking. This didn't include any detours down to the beaches or through the islands centre. Basically, you can walk pretty much everywhere.
The island is said to be home to about 200 red squirrels, but did I find any? The answer being absolutely! I saw loads of the cheeky little rascals whizzing around, climbing, running, eating and playing. They are so fun to watch. Apparently Autumn is the best time to see them as they are storing food supplies ready for the winter months. They were not shy either, quite happy to run around near you although they are incredibly quick and don't stay still for long! It took a long time to see them though as I saw a lone one to the south of the island in the first hour then nothing for the next 2 hours.
It's not just red squirrels you can see. The island is populated with Peacocks (which randomly appear out of nowhere) Chickens, Deer and a vast amount of coastal and marsh land nesting birds which is why there are a few bird hides on the island. It's a perfect place for wildlife lovers to visit with so much to see and photograph and all within their natural habitats.
If it's more scenery you want then the island still offers plenty. Lots of lush woodland makes up most of the island then inland you have a big section of colourful heathland and many beach areas to walk down to with nice views across Poole harbour. You also have plenty of family orientated play zones, obstacle courses and a cafe to relax in, although why you would want to do that when the place needs to be explored!
This place is a great day out. My second favourite booked day trip i've done now in the UK, second to Skomer Island in Pembrokeshire to see the Puffins. (trail feature on this website) If you're based in the south of England it definitely should be on your to do list!
Any questions about any of this trip, feel free to message.