Dorset walk around Brownsea Island

One of the beaches on Brownsea Island

One of the beaches on Brownsea Island - Credit: Archant

Edward Griffths enjoys a stroll through history on this walk where you may come across red squirrels and peacocks

Brownsea Castle and quay

Brownsea Castle and quay - Credit: Archant

As well as the chance of spotting one of the island’s resident red squirrels or colourful peacocks, this fascinating walk offers spectacular views across Poole Harbour’s upper reaches.

Along our route we will also explore the spectacularly ill-conceived industrial past of this delightful island that inspired Enid Blyton’s Whispering Island in the Famous Five stories, and was where the first Scout camp was held in 1907 by Baden-Powell.

One of the island's resident red squirrels

One of the island's resident red squirrels - Credit: Archant

Arriving at Brownsea by boat, you’ll receive a map of the island, so feel free to wander at will. You can also visit Dorset Wildlife Trust’s reserve as an optional extra; if you have time its well worth popping into their bird hides. This walk follows the South Shore where reminders of Colonel Waugh’s ill-fated Branksea Clay and Pottery Company are everywhere. Started in 1852, the Colonel expected to make £1million from the enterprise but lost around £350,000, so he fled to Spain and ruined the London and Eastern Banking Corporation. George Cavendish-Bentinck MP tried to resurrect it as a business but failed, and the pottery finally closed in 1887.

The lakes area

The lakes area - Credit: Archant


• Distance: 3 1/2 miles (5.5 km)

• Time: 3 1/2 hours

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• Exertion: Easy, though there are a couple of steep cliff steps. Some puddles after rain.

• Start: You need to take a boat to Brownsea Island via Ferry Kiosk on Poole Quay (Grid Ref: SZ011903) or Sandbanks Ferry (Grid Ref SZ037871), boats run from 10am every 1/2 hour. There is a landing charge for the island more details at

• Map: OS Landranger Sheet 195

• Public Transport: Wilts and Dorset 50 Bournemouth and Poole to Sandbanks Ferry, Route 1 to Poole Quay from Poole Station

• Dogs: Assistance dogs only on the island

• Refreshments: Brownsea’s Villano Café for lunches, tea and cakes


The Walk

1 From National Trust’s reception, past Villano Café and clock tower, follow the track along Brownsea Castle garden wall. Pass the right Dorset Wildlife Trust (DWT) bird hide and the Nature Reserve boardwalk (Optional entry adults £2, children £1). Passing the left ‘green’, turn left at the ‘South Shore and Visitor Centre’ signpost to pass St Mary the Virgin Church. Follow the track past far-left workers cottages and nearer farm buildings. Veer left to the Visitor Centre and the open-fronted barn with its farming implements collection. Continue up the track into trees along the left deer-fence. At the top, go right into the daffodil field and turn left. Veer slightly-right from the fence to the two-way signpost.

2 Take the ‘South Shore’ route through trees, off the track, to the steps down to South Shore’s pebble beach. Turn right, keeping clear of recent cliff landslips. Notice some old bricks on the beach already, and the iron-rich sandstone like Agglestone Rock on the mainland. As you go along here note the changing cliff-face sedimentary rocks, then walk on iron-stained and hardened rocks to pass another flight of steps. From here, increasing numbers of bricks lead to remnants of the old brickworks kilns and a line of old jetty posts. Pass more steps, a track up to some huts, a wooden launching hard and a ‘No Access’ track to South Shore Lodge. Here, the beach becomes littered with shards of broken pottery pipes, indicating the proximity of Colonel Waugh’s factory.

3 In 150 yards, because of landslips, take the right-fork minor path up through bracken to the ‘proper’ path. Turn left to the half-gate into the Camping Area. Follow the left fence to the round pine tree, then veer half-right between two pine clumps to 2½ gates onto the track before the ‘Toilets’ and ‘Trading Post’ huts. From here, go up the path to visit the stone commemorating Baden-Powell’s first Scout camp, then return to the huts complex. Opposite four water-taps, take the wood-edged gravel path to the fence’s half-gate into the lakes area. Go left along the boardwalk and along the left fence. Pass 1½ gates and, after the flagpole commemorating the 1907 Scout camp, go though the half-gate. Down steps to the beach, go right again.

4 The beach and the low cliffs now consist almost entirely of broken pipes as you progress around the point to West Beach. In a few yards, go up onto the track by a bench. In 50 yards, go left at the track T-junction. In 200 yards, pass new right steps up the cliff and keep to the sandy regular path below high cliffs, taking care where the path has slipped. Entering bracken, take any path down onto the beach and walk to abandoned Pottery Pier. Now, go up the path and steep steps to the T-junction under pines. Turn left down the wide sandy track to the ruins of Maryland village. Through, continue along the track above the beach before rising again to 1½ deer-gates.

5 Through, continue through the pine wood to another 1½ gates. Through, continue through pines to a tracks’ junction. Go right to the main track, called Middle Street and signed ‘To the Quay’. In 100 yards, pass the small brick building, now a bat sanctuary, which dates from the World War II ‘decoy’ site. Continue, past the right ‘natural play area’ and alongside the left ‘Nature Reserve’ fence, ignoring all turnings off. Past a long right ‘walled garden’ wall and another ‘Nature Reserve’ entrance, continue back to the Ferry for your return to the mainland.



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