Corfe Common

Looking down from the heights of Corfe Castle you can easily imagine yourself back in medieval times, for the landscape of Corfe Common has remained almost unchanged for more than 1,000 years.

A commoner in the middle ages would have had the right to graze livestock and collect firewood from the common. The legacy of commoning has kept the landscape as open and unimproved grassland, which is a habitat that is now rare to find.

Not-so-common wildlife

The electric blue southern damselfly is the UKs most endangered dragonfly species, and Corfe Common is one of only a small handful of sites in Dorset where it can be seen, flying weakly among the purple moor grass in the slow moving stream on the common’s western edge.

In the mire, bursts of bright yellow bog asphodel and pink marsh lousewort dot among the reeds and grasses, while away from the water the common is one of the UK’s strongholds for wild chamomile.

Bright yellow bog asphodel peek out from among the reeds in wetter spots
The bog asphodel
Bright yellow bog asphodel peek out from among the reeds in wetter spots

The open grasslands of the common are a great spot for a picnic with stunning views of the castle and village, and a carpet of flowers that changes colours as the seasons move on. You may even be serenaded by a skylark or two as you take the dog for a walk, but please be careful not to disturb their nests.

4,000 years of history

Bronze Age barrows line the central ridge and medieval sunken lanes or hollow-ways, once used to transport stone from the limestone quarries to the village, cross the common.

Between castle and common lie The Rings, a 12th century ring and bailey castle built by King Stephen as a base for his siege of Corfe while he fought the Empress Matilda for the crown. It is believed to have been used as a cannon battery by Cromwell’s forces during the English Civil War 500 years later.

Caring for the common

Ponies and cattle graze across the common, keeping the flower-rich grassland in prime condition. A team of rangers and volunteers continue the scrub clearance carried out by generations of commoners and work to ensure it remains a place of beauty and tranquillity.