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Displaying 1 - 50 of 139

Abbotsbury: Blind Lane

This locality shows the oolitic ironstones and a sandy beds of the Abbotsbury Ironstone, a marine deposit of Kimeridgian (Upper Jurassic) age. This unusual facies yields typical ammonites of the Cymodoce Zone making it possible to equate these distinctive and arealy restricted rocks with the more normal clays and silts seen in this part of the Lower Kimmeridgian elsewhere in Dorset. This is an important site for its faunas and for the information it affords on marine sedimentation and environments in the late Jurassic.


The Arne Peninsula lies on the southern shore of Poole Harbour and holds an extensive area of lowland heathland on the Bagshot Beds with diverse plant and animal communities of dry heath, wet heath and bog, which show many characteristics typical of Purbeck heaths. There are fine transitions from heathland into saltmarsh, reed swamp, coniferous and deciduous woodland and the site contains a geological exposure of high fossil plant interest

Aunt Marys Bottom

Aunt Mary’s Bottom is a valley mire lying on the northern flank of Rampisham Hill. It was formed by the headwaters of a tributary of the River Frome cutting through the Lower Chalk and Upper Greensand to the underlying Gault Clay. Fed by base-rich seepage water, a shallow peat mire has developed on the clay and supports fen meadow vegetation and Alder carr woodland. There are associated areas of dry and marshy acidic grassland. It is an undamaged and rich example of a very restricted habitat.

Avon Valley: Bicton to Christchurch

The Avon Valley Site of Special Scientific Interest encompasses the lower River Avon valley between Bickton in the north and the estuary of Christchurch Harbour in the south. In this, its lowest reach, the River meanders across a broad flood plain dissected by numerous dykes and rivulets. To either side of the flood plain the land rises in a series of river terraces to the extensive heathlands of southeast Dorset and the New Forest.

Batcombe Down

The site comprises part of the steep north west facing scarp slope of the Dorset Chalk escarpment and is mainly Middle and Lower Chalk with a capping of Clay with flints. The soils consequently range from calcareous on chalk slopes to strongly acid on the superficial deposits. The site is especially interesting for the close occurrence of plant communities characteristic of these soil types.

Belle Vue Quarry

Belle Vue Quarry comprises a steep shaft, 28 metres deep, leading to two remaining tunnels, totalling some 200 metres in length. It is one of the series of Purbeck quarries used as hibernation sites by the Dorset colony of greater horseshoe bat Rhinolophus ferrumequinum, one of the rarest of British bats.

Bere Stream

A length of chalk-stream with marshland and woodland. The Bere stream is a very typical permanent chalk-stream which has been maintained almost without management in recent years. The adjacent woodland and grassland have a rich flora and fauna.

Black Hill Down

This grassland site occupies steep, mostly Middle Chalk slopes on the east side of the River Cerne valley to the south of Cerne Abbas. These slopes support a herb-rich sward which also includes areas of scrub and, on small areas of superficial clay with flints, some acidic grassland. The butterfly fauna includes large populations of several declining species.

Black Hill Heath

Blackhill forms an elevated ridge of Reading Beds and London Clay, overlain in part by plateau gravels, on the north-western edge of the Poole Basin. The south and west facing slopes support dry heathland grading through wet heath to bog and fringing wet woodland. Dry heath of different character covers the north-eastern slope. The site supports a variety of animals including scarce heathland spp. Former gravel workings occur on part of the ridge top.

Blackmoor Vale Commons and Moors

Blackmore Vale Commons and Moors SSSI supports a diverse mosaic of semi-natural habitats, including unimproved grasslands, ancient semi-natural woodland and wood pasture, scrub, and an extensive network of hedges, with small wetlands, ponds and waterways. It is of special interest by reason of the following nationally important features that occur within and are supported by the wider habitat mosaic: species-rich neutral grassland of the National Vegetation Classification (NVC) type MG5 

Blandford Camp

Blandford Camp lies on the dip slope of the Dorset chalk outcrop two miles north east of Blandford Forum between 75 and 100m above sea level. The site is of special interest for its high quality downland turf which has developed on brown rendzina soils on an exposed and undulating plateau of the upper chalk dissected by dry valleys. The site consists of three grassland blocks, relics of a once continuous expanse of downland across the county, now fragmented by agriculture, development and forestry.

Blashenwell Farm Pit

The tufa deposit at Blashenwell Farm is important for Quaternary studies, providing a detailed record of molluscan biostratigraphy and environmental history during the early- and midFlandrian (mollusc assemblage zones b to d). It is particularly valuable for the length and continuity of the record and the dating potential provided by the presence of associated archaeological remains. Several radiocarbon dates are also available from the site.

Blue Pool and Norden Heaths

Blue Pool and Norden Heaths is one of a collection of sites which together comprise the Dorset heathlands. Although these heathlands have declined in extent and now occupy only 14% of their original area they show a high degree of ecological cohesion and clear ecological trends and patterns. The Dorset heaths complex is one of the major lowland heathland areas in Britain and is of international importance for its plant and animal communities.

Boulsbury Wood

Boulsbury Wood sensu lato (consisting of Boulsbury Wood, High Wood, Stone Hill Wood, Martin Wood and Blagdon Hill Wood) is a large varied wood lying astride the high county boundary ridge where Dorset and Hampshire meet. The wood lies across the transition between the acidic deposits of the Reading Beds and the Chalk, which give rise to a complex series of soils ranging from thin chalk, through a deep, rich, calcareous loam, to podsolised soils and dense cappings of flints.

Bourne Valley

The Bourne Valley site covers the largest tract of heathland that has survived within the spread of the Bournemouth-Poole conurbation on the formerly extensive heaths that once bordered Poole Bay. Sequences of heath, mire and fen woodland vegetation types are well developed and typical of a lowland valley heathland in southern Britain. These habitats, the Bourne stream and several ponds support a range of rare and uncommon plants, birds, reptiles and invertebrates. The assemblage of dragonfly and damselfly species is especially rich.

Bracketts Coppice and Ryewater Farm

Bracket’s Coppice and Ryewater Farm lie 2 km north of Corscombe in the vales of West Dorset and comprise oak and ash woodland, wooded stream valleys, herb rich grassland and fen-meadow with a diverse fauna. Jurassic clays and limestones underlie the site and nodular limestone is exposed where fast flowing streams have cut deep gulleys through the drift and clay. A Geological Conservation Review Site is present where fossil rich exposures of Jurassic clays and sandy limestones are present in the stream banks.

Bradford Abbas Railway Cutting

An internationally important Middle Jurassic locality comprising the only remaining section in an area where the condensed limestones of the Inferior Oolite were once well exposed and famous for their palaeontology. Many type specimens particularly of molluscan species came from here. The Bradford Fossil Bed section constitutes a reference section for parts of the Aalenian and Bajocian Stages (the concavum and discites Zones). The Bradford Abbas cutting is the standard section for these internationally applicable time units.

Breach Fields

Lying to the west of Shaftesbury, the site comprises three west-facing fields on slopes which overlie Gault Clay and Upper Greensand. These fields have been relatively little modified by agricultural improvement and support species-rich neutral grassland which is now rare both in Dorset and nationally.

Brenscombe Heath

Brenscombe Heath is one of the larger fragments of the formerly continuous heathland on the Bagshot Beds, south of Poole Harbour. It holds substantial areas of the very local wet heathland community characterised by the presence of Dorset Heath Erica ciliaris as well as dry heath, flushes and damp heathy grassland. The fauna of the site contains several rare heathland species

Broom Gravel Pits

Broom Gravel Pits are sites of the highest importance for Pleistocene studies. They provide critical sections in the terrace gravels of the Axe Valley which has long been famous for its Pleistocene geomorphological and archaeological interests relating to the Hoxnian and Wolstonian periods. Not only are the pits of geomorphological significance for representative sections in the gravel deposits, but they also provide unique evidence for environmental conditions during part of the Middle Pleistocene period in South West England.


The large roof space in the derelict 18th century kitchens at Bryanston is the only known breeding site for the greater horseshoe bat Rhinolophus ferrum-equinum in Dorset and the colony is one of only 7 remaining in Britain. In addition to the building being used for breeding in summer, juveniles use the old chimneys and a tunnel during the autumn and winter. The estimated national population of this species is some 2–3000 animals, confined to south-west England and west Wales.

Bugdens Copse and Meadow

The site comprising Bugdens Copse and the adjoining meadows lies within the urban setting of Verwood on soils derived from the Bagshot Beds. Bugdens Copse is, in part, of ancient origin and the meadows too appear to have been established for a considerable period, a fact reflected by their rich floristic composition. Many species present are now only found in such old grassland communities which are now uncommon both nationally and in Dorset

Burton Bradstock

Cliff Hall Road provides an excellent section of the junction of the Aalenian/Bajocian Inferior Oolite, with the mainly Toarcian Bridport Sands. In particular it provides what is probably the best exposure of rocks of aalensis subzone, levesquei Zone age in Britain.

Canford Heath

Despite major reductions in size due to urban development in recent years, Canford Heath remains one of the largest heathland areas in Dorset. Development has consumed much of the lower-lying ground; the remaining heathland of Canford and Dunyeat’s Hill occupies more elevated land on the acidic sands of the Bagshot Beds, overlain in part with Plateau Gravel. The site supports a number of the rare and local species characteristic of Dorset heathland.

Chesil and the Fleet

Nature and Geological Conservation Review site. Fleet designated a wetland of international importance under the Ransar Convention and a Special Protection Area under EEC Directive on the Conservation of Wild Birds (79/409). Part of the SSSI lies within the West Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and it lies wholly within the West Dorset Heritage Coast. The SSSI includes the Fleet Sanctuary Nature Reserve, the Dorset Trust for Nature Conservation West Bexington Reserve, and part of the National Trust’s Limekiln and Labour-inVain Farm.

Christchurch Harbour

The site comprises the drowned estuary of the rivers Stour and Avon and the peninsula of Hengistbury Head. The varied habitats include saltmarsh, wet meadows, drier grassland, heath, sand dune, woodland and scrub and the site is of great ornithological interest.

Conegar Road Cutting

The site at Conegar Road Cutting comprises a 175 metre long road section located immediately north of Broadwindsor. The steep east and west-facing road sides expose a nationally important sequence through the upper parts of the Bridport Sands and the Lower Inferior Oolite and clearly demonstrate the stratigraphical relationships between these lithologies. The total thickness of the succession is approximately 20 metres.

Corfe and Barrow Hills

This area of heathland lies on the Tertiary deposits immediately south of the valley of the River Stour near Wimborne Minster in close proximity to the larger heathland blocks of Canford and Upton Heaths. It provides a very good example of a type of dry heathland dominated by Ling and Western Gorse which is very local in the County. This and the wetter heathland support several uncommon animals and plants typical of the Dorset heaths.

Corfe Common

Lying immediately south of the village of Corfe Castle, and flanked to the south and west by a branch of the Corfe River, the Common is the only large remaining area of uncultivated land on the Purbeck Wealden Beds. It is of great botanical interest, the flora of the flushes being of particular richness

Corfe Meadows

The meadows, lying mostly on alluvium in the valley of the Corfe River, have had a long history of traditional management for hay. Consequently they have a rich and attractive flora which is now rarely found in the county

Corfe Mullen Pastures

Corfe Mullen Pastures lie in a shallow valley between 40 and 65 metres above sea level to the west of Corfe Mullen village on the edge of the Poole conurbation. The valley slopes gently to the north towards the Stour Valley and straddles the boundary of the Poole Formation, consisting of sands and clays, and the underlying London Clay.

Corton Cutting

Corton Cutting shows a section through the Portland Sand Formation of Late Jurassic (Tithonian) age. The upper part of the Formation is here remarkably developed, with lime mudstones, often rich in sponge spicules (‘spiculite’) yielding a rich marine fauna with serpulid encrusted oysters Nanogyra and ammonites (the latter representing the Albani Zone). These levels are taken to be equivalent to the Exogyra Bed of Ringstead and Portland and form the type sequence of the Corton Hill Member

Court Farm

This site comprises a series of unimproved downland slopes on the western side of the valley of the Sydling Water. These slopes on Middle and Upper Chalk have a variety of aspects and support varied plant communities characteristic of west/central Dorset and a rich assemblage of associated invertebrates.

Cranborne Chase

Straddling the Dorset/Wiltshire border, Cranborne Chase comprises one of the largest tracts of semi-natural woodland in these counties. It derives from an ancient hunting forest, and includes remnants of enclosed medieval coppice, commonland wood pasture and 19th century hazel plantation. The ground flora includes many uncommon species and is exceptionally rich in plants closely associated with ancient woodland. The Chase is one of the richest sites for lichens in southern England.

Cranborne Common

A complex of heathland and acidic grassland, this site comprises the most northerly heathland communities on the Tertiary deposits of Dorset. There is considerable variety of vegetation with dry and wet heath, bog and grassland, subject to differing management and with great species-richness, including many plants and animals which are local and rare

Creech Grange

The large roof spaces above the stables and outhouses at Creech Grange constitute the secondmost important summer roost site for the Dorset colony of the greater horseshoe bat Rhinolophus ferrumequinum, one of the rarest of British bats.

Crookhill Brick Pits

The site is a disused brickpit, which provides the best exposure of Lower and Middle Oxford Clay in southern England, showing a sequence through the jason, coronatum and athleta zones, of Middle Jurassic age. It is also a nationally important site because it supports an exceptional population of great crested newts Triturus cristatus. The SSSI includes the breeding ponds and the terrestrial habitat that is used by the newts for resting, foraging and hibernation. 

Culpeppers Dish

The site covers a single large subsidence doline which is the largest karst feature on the Bryants Puddle heathland. It is formed in Tertiary and Quaternary sands overlying the Chalk, and provides an excellent example of a landscape feature formed by the extensive subsurface solution of the Chalk of southern England.


Drakenorth supports rich grassland communities on predominantly south-facing slopes. Fullers Earth Clay underlies most of the site but in the extreme north there is Upper Greensand and Gault Clay and the character of the soils of the upper slopes is somewhat complicated by landslips. The lower lying areas hold seepages, mostly of base-rich character and there are several streams in deeply incised wooded ravines.

East Coppice

East Coppice lies on moderately acidic London Clay and is a rare example of ancient woodland which has been continuously managed as coppice to the present day. The ground flora of this wood and its fauna, particularly its invertebrates are very rich, and include some rarities, reflecting this continuity of management.

Ebblake Bog

Ebblake Bog is an acid mire in the upper valley of the Moors River and has developed on a section of the river valley with a poor hydraulic gradient which has permitted the accumulation of relatively deep peat. Valley mires are rare habitats in lowland England, being confined mainly to The New Forest and the Poole Basin, with a few small, outlying sites elsewhere. The habitat is now internationally scarce and the relatively few remaining undamaged mires, of which Ebblake Bog is one, thus assume special nature conservation importance.

Ferndown Common

This site, on the edge of Ferndown, comprises a significant block of heathland, which despite its now urban-fringe location, retains considerable interest, including many of the very rare animals confined to lowland heaths.

Frogden Quarry

Frogden Quarry is an internationally important geological locality demonstrating features of very considerable stratigraphical significance. This is the only site in Southern England where rocks of the humphriesianum and subfurcatum zones of the Bajocian (Middle Jurassic) are exposed in any thickness as a complete succession. The site has produced most of the type fossils (in this case ammonites) from which the humphriesianum and subfurcatum zones were defined. Elsewhere the time intervals represented by these zones are normally missing or occur in attenuated form.

Frome St Quintin

Frome St Quintin SSSI is the most extensive known intact valley mire on Upper Greensand in Dorset. The site occupies two gently sloping valleys in the headwaters of the River Frome which run southwards from Evershot and Holywell over an altitudinal range of 170 - 135 m before converging 1.5 km downstream to the north west of Frome St Quintin.