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Things to do at Fontmell and Melbury Downs

A view across the rolling, grassy landscape of Compton Down at Fontmell and Melbury Downs, Dorset
Compton Down at Fontmell and Melbury Downs | © National Trust Images

Fontmell and Melbury Downs is a landscape for all seasons. Discover Bronze Age earthworks, take in spectacular views and admire the flora and fauna in this area of natural beauty.

Admire the archaeology

On your visit, look out for banks and ditches that are the only remaining visible signs of past civilizations on the high downs.

Discover Bronze Age linear earthworks crossing the landscape, or for subtle scoops on the slopes, which are Second World War defences.

Go birdwatching

Birds and birds of prey are frequent visitors to the downs. Buzzards circle as they soar on thermals to rise up into the air. Red kites, identified by their distinctive forked tails, are also becoming an increasingly common sight.

Look out for skylarks, too – they fill the downs with their trilling song as they begin marking out their territories in spring. These unremarkable-looking, small brown birds, sing as they fly higher and higher, until they're just a tiny speck in the sky.

Close up of a small blue butterfly (Cupido minimus) sat on a leaf
Small blue butterfly (Cupido minimus) | © National Trust Images / Clive Whitbourn

See butterflies on the wing

Marsh fritillary butterflies overwinter as caterpillars, surviving winter frosts and wet weather by spinning silk nests on the ground.

The butterflies are some of the first to appear on the downs in spring, their wings like orange and yellow stained glass. They're just one of 35 species on the downs.

On a sunny day in May, it's possible to see small blue, green hairstreak, brimstone and many more species of butterfly.

A view across the rolling green countryside of Compton Down at Fontmell and Melbury Downs, Dorset

Discover more at Fontmell and Melbury Downs

Find out how to get to Fontmell and Melbury Downs, where to park, the things to see and do and more.

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