Dorset walk around Broadstone & Canford Heath

The triangular pond in Dunyeat Hill Nature Reserve

The triangular pond in Dunyeat Hill Nature Reserve - Credit: Archant

Edward Griffiths explores a wild heath landscape near Poole which is home to some very rare residents

This intriguing Poole area walk features some fascinating local landmarks including Broadstone’s first station. Originally called ’New Poole Junction’, it was built in 1872. ‘Delph’ is derived from an old English word meaning mining or quarrying, probably where local people extracted gravel for building. Delph Wood was originally 100 acres but the railway divided it in 1847, the northern part becoming Broadstone Golf Club in 1898. The remaining 24 acres was acquired by Poole Council in 1940.

Arrowsmith Coppice is a 30 acre Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) mainly of mixed woodland infiltrated by rhododendron, with a small area of wet heathland. Canford Heath, another SSSI, is one of the larger remnants of Dorset’s ancient Great Heath. Longfleet Drive is an ornamental drive established for Lady Wimborne between Canford Manor House and Poole. Gravel Hill is the Turnpike Road which superseded it.

Dunyeats Heath Nature Reserve, Arrowsmith Coppice & Delph Woods

This magnificent wild landscape is managed by Dorset Wildlife Trust and is a wildlife corridor with Canford Heath. Dunyeats Heath is home to some of the rarest wildlife in the country and its Bronze Age barrows, quarrying and field boundary bears witness to its long association with people. All six British reptile species (smooth snake, sand lizard, common lizard, adder, grass snake, slow worm) are found on the dry heath. Also in residents are dragonflies, damselflies, newts, common toad, Dartford warbler, stonechat, nightjar, raft spider, silver-studded blue butterflies, sundews and heathers.

Delph Woods is a 24 acre site of mixed woodland, ponds, ditches and streams. There is a 1.5 mile woodland trail, marked by yellow posts, which leads you past a 200 year old oak tree, along a shallow stream with footbridges. Look out for tree-nesting birds and bats, including the rare Bechstein’s bat. Find out more at

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• Distance: 3½ miles (5.5 km)

• Time: 3½ hours

• Exertion: Not too strenuous. No stiles. Some mud after rain.

• Start: Broadstone Sports Centre, Station Approach (Grid Ref: SZ004960)

• Map: OS Landranger Sheet 195

• Public Transport: Wilts and Dorset 3, 4

• Dogs: On leads in nature reserves (especially during bird breeding 1 March – 31 July) and on roads

• Refreshments: The Goods Yard for lunches and bar meals

The walk

1. From the Goods Yard, originally the Railway Hotel, walk around the right bend into Moor Road. Pass right Tudor Road and left Golf Links Road. Up to the road junction, cross Lower Golf Links Road and, through bollards, rejoin Moor Road. Continue up and around the left bend to Upper Golf Links Road. Turn right, then left into Merrifield Avenue. Cross over and follow the road around right pines. Cross the first right turning and turn next right at Number 16. At the end, take ‘Bridleway 97’ into Delph Wood/Dunyeats Hill Nature Reserve.

2. Go through 1½ right gates onto Dunyeats Hill Nature Reserve’s green track, instantly passing a right downhill path. Stay on high ground through gorse and birch, rising to a flinty left sweep. At the fork, take the right unsigned track along the ridge. At the end, go down the narrow path onto a wider descending track with the valley and a triangular pond below. Continue past a left fork and down to a half-gate in the fence by the pond. Through, go left before turning right to the gate into A349 Gravel Hill lay-by. Turn left, then carefully cross the road. Into Arrowsmith Coppice, walk through pines down to the raised gravel path clear of boggy ground. Continuing into Arrowsmith Road, cross over and turn left. In 225 yards, go through the right ‘Canford Heath Nature Reserve’ half-gate.

3. Through the trees, follow the main path into the valley, picking your way carefully around wet areas (left is best) for 30 yards. Keep following the most-used path, meandering and undulating for about ½ mile towards cattle-pens on the top. Just before the pens, double-back right onto the path to a bridleway half-gate. Through, cross the track. Go through 1½ bridleway-gates onto wide Longfleet Drive over Canford Heath, passing three-way ‘Pit Road’ signpost. Ignore side tracks and descend through woods to 1½ bridleway-gates.

4. Through, pass the four-way signpost at a tracks’ crossing and continue down Longfleet Drive to 1½ gates in a clearing. This is Hotchkiss Cross bridleways’ crossing. Continue for another 300 yards to 1½ gates. At the five-ways crossing, take the right gated ‘Broadstone 1’ rising flinty track with several side paths. Reaching the four-way signposted junction at the foot of a sandy hill, double-back left for ‘Gravel Hill 1/3’. Pass the three-way signpost with barrow hill steps right. Instantly, take the right sandy path across the valley and up to a paths’ crossing with right pines. Keep straight on up to join the wider track down through the same pine-wood and into the facing path through young birch trees. Meandering towards traffic noise, join another path from your right just before a half-gate. Through, cross the boardwalk with a right black pool. Turn left for ‘Gravel Hill 85 yds’ before turning right to steps into Gravel Hill lay-by. Cross over and turn left.

5. After ½ mile, Take right Steepleton Road. At the T-junction, turn right to Whitchurch Avenue. Continue up, passing left Turnworth Close, right Badbury Close and Westcroft Park. Over the top, descend and take the right clearing into Broadstone Heath Nature Reserve. Turn right up the sandy track, with garden fences right, into a birch wood. At the crossing, go straight over and down onto a wider track with right fences and left heath. Through trees, keep meandering on the widest track. Arriving under large pines with a left play area, join the Tarmac path. At the crossing, keep right, above the cricket pitch. At the azalea garden, turn left to the war memorial and leave through the gates into Ridgeway. Turn right to Dunyeats Road. Turn left down to the roundabout with right Station Approach and the Sports Centre where you started.

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