Hartland Moor and Middlebere Heath
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Hartland Moor and neighbouring Middlebere Heath in Dorset form a tranquil oasis, ideal for getting away from it all to enjoy natural treasures and atmospheric views.
Corfe Castle is a brooding presence to the south, set against the background of the Purbeck Hills. Meanwhile, Hartland and Middlebere make up a prime example of lowland heath where a unique Y-shaped drainage system allows both acid and alkaline-loving plants to thrive.
Hides overlook the heathland and Middlebere Lake, part of Poole Harbour. Bird-watching highlights include migrating ospreys in spring and autumn, hen harriers, hobbies, stonechats and meadow pipits, with large flocks of avocets and Brent geese resident throughout the winter.
Rare plants range from marsh gentian and bog orchid to Dorset heath – a type of heather adopted as the county flower in 2002.
The Middlebere Plateway was the first railway in Dorset when it was built across Hartland Moor in 1805 to transport ball clay from workings near Corfe Castle to Poole Harbour.
The horse-drawn plateway, Middlebere Quay where it terminated and the clay pits themselves are all disused now, but are visible reminders of Purbeck’s industrial past.
The Swanage Steam Railway still runs to nearby Norden via Corfe Castle and there are plans to reconnect it to the main line using existing tracks.
Hartland Moor is grazed by our own herd of Red Devon cattle, which helps prevent the delicate habitat from being taken over by scrub and allows heathland species to thrive.
All six native British reptiles can be found here, which makes it a fascinating spot for wildlife enthusiasts.
Hartland and Middlebere are included in the Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) as well as being a national nature reserve.
Together with adjoining reserves, they form one of the largest areas of lowland heath and mire in Dorset – well worth a visit for anyone who wants to discover what makes the Purbeck countryside so special.