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UK's first 'super' nature reserve at Purbeck Heaths

Horse riders on Godlingston Heath in Dorset, part of the Purbeck Heaths  'super' nature reserve
Godlingston Heath in Dorset, part of the Purbeck Heaths 'super' nature reserve | © National Trust Images/Chris Lacey

We want more of you to experience the beauty of landscapes where wildlife is protected and allowed to thrive. This is why the National Trust has teamed up with six other landowners to create the UK's first 'super' nature reserve at Purbeck Heaths in Dorset. Find out more about this ongoing collaboration, and why it is so important.

Working together for a national nature reserve

We know that working together with like-minded partner organisations has a greater impact on protecting the environment and the recovery of nature.

To this end, we've created a national nature reserve in partnership with Natural England, RSPB, Forestry England, the Rempstone Estate Trust, Dorset Wildlife Trust, and Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust, along with other landowners and managers.

Spanning 8,231 acres, the ‘super’ reserve at Dorset’s Purbeck Heaths brings together 11 priority habitats, allowing animals, reptiles, birds and insects to move more easily across the landscape and adapt to the challenges brought by the climate crisis.

This will be of great benefit to a variety of rare wildlife, including the sand lizard, the Dartford warbler and the silver-studded blue butterfly.

Sand lizard in Studland, Dorset
Sand lizard in Studland, Dorset | © National Trust Images/Ross Hoddinott

Top facts on the UK's first 'super' nature reserve

  • The new site combines three existing national nature reserves at Stoborough Heath, Hartland Moor, and Studland and Godlingston Heath.
  • The site is made up of a rich mosaic of lowland wet and dry heath, valley mires, acid grassland and woodland, coastal sand dunes, lakes and saltmarsh.
  • The expansion will create the largest lowland heathland nature reserve in the country, allowing wildlife to thrive.
  • Purbeck Heaths is home to at least two fungi that are found nowhere else in England and Wales – the sand earthtongue and Roseodiscus formosus.
Grasses growing on Old Nick's Ground at sunset in Purbeck Countryside, Dorset
Long grasses growing at sunset at Purbeck | © National Trust Images/Ben Selway

Wildlife at Purbeck Heaths

Purbeck Heaths is one of the most biodiverse places in the UK. The precious landscape on the shores of Poole Harbour is home to thousands of species including over 450 that are listed as rare, threatened or protected.

Heathland birds, such as nightjar, Dartford warbler and woodlark, are regularly seen, as are larger birds of prey, including hen harrier, merlin and osprey.

The area is also home to Britain's rarest dragonfly – the southern damselfly – and Dorset's only colony of small pearl-bordered fritillary butterflies. Then there are the rare reptiles (smooth snakes and sand lizards) and at least 12 species of bats.

Among the many unsual plants that flourish at Purbeck Heaths are marsh gentians, great sundews and lesser butterfly orchids.

For more information on Purbeck Heaths and planning your visit to the reserve, go to

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