Wildlife on the Golden Cap Estate in Dorset
The Golden Cap Estate is a haven for wildlife, from rare orchids in the carefully managed haymeadows to dragonflies in the ponds, wildflowers in the hedgerows and even an assortment of reptiles. Here's an overview of the wildlife you might spot on your visit.
Much of the ecology of the estate is of national importance and most is classified as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). Ponds are attractive to dragonflies, the hay meadows are rich in wildflowers and some of the woodland is ancient and rich in lichens. The orchards at Filcombe Farm and St Gabriel's are important biodiversity sites. We work with our tenant farmers to carefully manage and preserve these important habitats.
Throughout autumn, some unusual shapes and sizes of fungi appear in the woodland at Langdon Hill.
- buzzards and kestrels scanning the hedgerows for prey
- a peregrine falcon - the fastest bird in the world - on the clifftops
- the stonechat, whose song sounds like two pebbles being banged together, in the heathland
- ravens, blue tits and long-tailed tits active in the late winter months
- Let us know if you spot a now rarely seen Dartford warbler on the heathland.
On a nature walk at night you might see:
- Roe deer in the fields at dawn or dusk
- Badgers emerging from their setts in the fields at dusk
- Newts hunting for slugs and insects in the ponds and streams
- The rarely seen nocturnal dormouse in the hedgerows after dark
You're likely to come across cows and sheep as you explore the estate. Grazing by sheep and cattle keeps the turf short and prevents scrub from taking over. You might see playful lambs in the fields even in winter, as some Dorset breeds can lamb all year round.
The estate is awash with wildflowers in the spring and summer. Highlights include carpets of bluebells at Langdon Hill and rare flowers in the hay meadows including the green-winged orchid and corky-fruited water dropwort. The hedgerows are a tantalising tangle of foxgloves, red and white campion, herb-Robert and common vetch. Thrift and sea campion cling to the cliff edges but these should be admired at a safe distance.
Butterflies, dragonflies and damselflies
The grassland on Stonebarrow Hill is home to many species of butterfly including the common blue, marbled white and small pearl-bordered fritillary. In spring and summer, watch for red admirals and peacocks hovering around the wildflowers in the hedgerows.
Record what you see
Volunteer Ecologist John Newbould surveys the wildlife at our Dorset coast and countryside sites. You can help him with his work by recording your sightings while you explore the estate.