Arne is not only a brilliant Dorset bird watching spot, it’s also one of the few remaining places where all six of the UK’s native reptiles can be found. Situated on Poole Harbour and within the Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, landscapes don’t get much more breathtaking than Arne. It’s a rich patchwork of habitats, home to a huge array of wildlife. Explore wide-open heathlands where reptiles roam, as well as ancient oak woodland humming with bird song, farm fields where Sika Deer stags rut and wetlands where Spoonbills wade. Still want more? How about discovering wading birds among the mudflats, watching Dartford Warblers darting about in the scrub, and spotting seals from the shoreline.

We carefully manage Arne's unique mix of habitats to create the ideal conditions for wildlife to thrive. As a threatened habitat in the UK, our lowland heath is of particular importance and many rare birds including Dartford Warblers, Woodlarks and Nightjars call it home. But it’s not just birds – Smooth Snakes, Heath Tiger Beetles, Ladybird Spiders and Yellow Centaury (a rare heathland plant) can also be found at Arne. 

We use a range of techniques to keep the heathland open, as it has been for thousands of years. A key part of getting this right is grazing, so don’t be surprised if you bump into cattle, ponies or pigs during your visit. Poole Harbour is also of international significance thanks to the vast numbers of winter waders and wildfowl, including very large numbers of Avocets.

A ramble through heathland and woodland will take you to the sandy shores of Shipstal Beach – a quiet refuge away from the busier parts of Poole Harbour.  


Protecting Hyde's Heath

Supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, Protecting Hyde’s Heath is a project that has facilitated the long-term protection of Hyde’s Heath and its wildlife, whilst engaging local communities with Arne’s stunning heritage. 

Beginning in 2019 the project supported the acquisition of 67 hectares of former tree plantation, and the ambitious journey began in transforming the habitat into a thriving heathland at RSPB Arne. New visitor trails around Hyde’s heath were created, boasting stunning views across Wareham Channel and out towards Corfe Castle. Restoration work has taken place, removing non-native pine, making room for the resurgence of heather, and securing the site for special species and future generations. 

The project has engaged local people with their heritage, especially those who are currently under-represented at RSPB Arne, including children and families, young people, and people with health and wellbeing needs. The project has sparked new ways to help people learn about the importance of heathland and actively play a role in enhancing and protecting it. 

The provision of a shuttle bus, which operated seasonally between Wareham and RSPB provided 1,402 passenger trips helping people who couldn’t currently access the reserve, to experience a special part of Dorset’s heritage in an affordable way. 

The project has truly demonstrated the resilience of nature, the power of community and the profound connection between people and the natural world. 

At a glance

See what’s here

Contact Arne