Sunday, 1 November 2009

An autumn afternoon on Brownsea Island

The last day of October and the last weekend of the year when visitors can enjoy the peaceful walks, the wildlife and the beautiful scenery of Brownsea Island. We caught the 12.30 pm ferry and spent a happy afternoon with my son and his family, walking and exploring until the light began to fail and the last boat brought us back to the busy Dorset mainland once again.

Brownsea Island has a long and interesting history. It has been settled by human beings since the iron age. It has been the site of a pottery, it has been bombed by the Luftwaffer and it is the spiritual home of the Scouting and Guiding Movement as Lord Baden Powell organised early camps on the island. Under the ownership of the reclusive Mrs Bonham - Christie, the island became a sanctuary for wildlife. The National Trust took over the ownership and care of the island after her death, despite the efforts of property developers who had hoped to build luxury homes and marinas there.

Here are some snapshots from our walk around the island. Some memories of a tranquil afternoon before the storms came in from the west overnight.

The little yellow boat, Maid of the Islands, ties up alongside at Sandbanks, ready to take us to Brownsea Island.

Looking back to the grand modern houses on the Sandbanks coast. Most have their own moorings and boast stunning views across Poole Harbour towards Studland, the Purbeck Hills and Brownsea Island. Real estate on the low lying Sandbanks peninsula is said to be some of the most expensive in the world, but if sea levels rise with global warming then the residents of Sandbanks will be paddling, or worse!

Heading out for the short voyage across Poole Harbour to Brownsea. The little boat will moor on the quay by the grey cottages on the right. On the left of the picture is Branksea Castle, once a grand house and now a hotel owned by the John Lewis Partnership.

A small yacht is caught in the swell as it follows us through the harbour.

We passed astern of the French cross-channel ferry Barfleur as she made her way out of Poole harbour to begin a journey to Cherbourg.

Estate cottages with crenellated roof lines to match those of the neo Gothic Branksea Castle by the quay.

The boat is about to moor at the quay.

On the quay at Brownsea, looking back over the harbour towards the "luxury homes" on Sandbanks peninsula.

On the landscaped green, this beautiful American oak was shedding huge red leaves to make a carpet beneath its boughs.

The Brownsea parish church of St Mary the Virgin

A free range hen and her ten chicks peck for food under leaves. This little family was a source of wonder and excitement to the young children playing on the green.

Cottages and outbuildings across the green lawn where peacocks roam free.

Crunching through fallen leaves along the woodland tracks.

Ungrazed heathland in the centre of the island. A habitat for sand lizards, smooth snakes, heathland birds and insects.

A woodland path leads out onto heath where Red Darter dragonflies flitted across the land.

Across the harbour to Studland peninsula, Studland Bay and the chalk cliffs of Old Harry Rocks in the distance.

Furzey Island with the Purbeck Hills behind it.

The Purbeck Hills. In the middle distance, the ruins of Corfe Castle emerge in a gap between the hills. Click to enlarge to see the castle.

The warehouses and industrial buildings of modern Poole.

Glimpses of Dorset, seen through the pines on the island`s highest land. On a warm afternoon , with the scent of pine oil and views across the calm harbour waters, there was an atmosphere reminiscent of walks through Mediterranean pine woods by the sea.

Brownsea Island has one of the UK`s most important populations of Red Squirrels. The plantations of Scots Pine ( Pinus sylvestris) provide pine cones that Red Squirrels feed on and a habitat of tall and majestic conifers that give shelter to these secretive animals. The copses of Scots Pine also provide homes for bats and for conifer loving birds.The undergrowth of rust coloured pine needles or tall , ungrazed heather is a backdrop to stands of tall pines with patterned bark; where a squirrel might be seen for a second, darting upwards into the secret silver-green of the forest canopy.


Bovey Belle said...

Gosh - happy days - I have had a silly smile on my face with every photo because they bring back such happy memories. What a LOVELY day out you had. It must be 15 years since I was last there. You chose the right day for your visit - wouldn't have been so much fun yesterday, especially on the crossing!!

Dartford Warbler said...

I did think of you when we were there BB. I had a feeling you might know Brownsea well.

You are right about the crossing.No fun on a small boat in rough weather. A friend at work travelled back across the channel from France last night and they had a horrendous journey in the storm!