Site Review: Stonehill Down
This is another Dorset Wildlife Trust reserve that offers you tremendous views as well as great wildlife! Set high on the Purbeck Ridge, when standing on top of the knowle you can see for miles across Poole Harbour and away to the far hills of north Dorset.
In some ways you could consider this two reserves in one. There is broadleaf coppiced woodland on the nothern slopes of the Purbeck Ridge which are a must in spring with masses of flowers across the woodland floor. This is also the place to look for toothwort in spring around the base of hazel trees. Just a word of warning, this is pretty steep in places and can be heavy going!
The Purbeck Ridge is, of course, primarily chalk downland and so the area of the reserve on the top of the ridge is rough pasture with some scrub. This is best in late summer and early autumn when the autumn ladys tresses, autumn gentian (or felwort) and nettle-leaved bellflower are in bloom. Unfortunately, a local farmer has long term grazing rights on the open downland and so the area is very heavily grazed which prevents it from reaching its full potential.
There is little parking and there are some steep slopes so access can bit a little tricky and there are no visitor facilties but then, apart from us keen wildlife enthusiasts, there are few visitors so that does not matter in the slightest. Stonehill is always worth a visit but chose a nice day for the best views.
See more photographs and a species list here: