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Displaying 101 - 139 of 139

Purewell Meadows

A series of unimproved wet meadows situated as a south easterly outlier of the Avon Valley SSSI. The complex system of fields and ditches presents a range of plant habitats including wet acidic grassland over peat and more neutral damp grassland which are an integral component of the meadows of the Avon Valley. Mature hedgerows, often with broad scrub margins, add to the interest and diversity of flowering plants of which 160 species have been recorded.

Radipole Lake

The former estuary of the River Wey, this site comprises a variety of wetland habitats of great importance for birds as a breeding, wintering and passage site. The lake and reed beds have formed since the exclusion of tidal water in the 1920’s, though areas of relict saltmarsh remain. Scrub is an important additional habitat and wet grassland on alluvium over Oxford Clay is also present

Rampisham Down

Rampisham Down is located on a high plateau with land sloping gently towards the south to southwest. The whole site is above 200m, being 220m at its highest point, and sits above the Powerstock Vale, in west Dorset. The underlying geology is upper chalk but over much of the site this is overlain by superficial deposits of clay with flints giving rise to free-draining largely acidic soils.

Rempstone Heath

The site includes remaining heathland on the southern shores of Poole Harbour, between the Corfe River in the west and Studland and Godlingston Heaths in the east. Bog and wet heath communities are specially well represented with fine transitions into the saltmarsh of the Harbour. There is also dry heath, acidic grassland and broadleaved woodland.

River Frome

The River Frome is the most westerly example of a major chalk stream in Great Britain. The SSSI section (Dorchester to Wareham) supports an aquatic and bankside vegetation which shows a downstream transition from a purely chalk stream community type to a lowland, mixed geology community in the lowermost reaches. These plant communities are speciesrich compared with like communities on other rivers.

Sandford Lane Quarry

An internationally important geological site. The limestones of the Inferior Oolite exposed at Sandford Lane have yielded faunas essential to Middle Jurassic stratigraphic studies. Sandford can be taken as the British standard for part of the Upper Bajocian garantiana Zone. It is also the most important locality for the Middle Bajocian sauzei and laeviuscula Zones. The majority of European ammonite records from these two Zones were based on collections from the Sandford quarry. This site shows one of the most important of British sedimentary sequences.

Shillingstone Quarry

Shillingstone Quarry, located on the scarp slope of the North Dorset Downs south west of the River Stour gap, exposes a stratigraphically important sequence of Cretaceous-aged chalks representing the Cenomanian, Turonian and Coniacian stages. The quarry provides a virtually complete section through the Middle Chalk extending from the basal fossiliferous Melbourn Rock up into nodular chalky limestones with conspicuous hardgrounds attributed to both the Chalk Rock and the Spurious Chalk Rock.

Slop Bog and Uddens Heath

These heathland areas on Bagshot Sands and Valley Gravels are situated in the valley of the Uddens Water, a tributary of the Moors River. The wetter types of heath are best represented but there is dry heath in limited amount. Plant and animal communities typical of Dorset heathland occur and these include several rare species.

St Leonards and St Ives Heaths

The St. Leonards and St. Ives Heaths form part of a complex 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.

Stoborough and Creech Heaths

Stoborough and Creech Heaths, though divided by two roads, comprise one of the larger areas of lowland heathland in Purbeck. There is a full range of heathland communities from dry heath to valley bog and carr. The site has an exceptionally rich heathland flora and fauna including many species which are local or rare. There is evidence of former clay workings in many parts of the site and the south of Creech Heath is subject to current clay extraction.

Stokeford Heaths

Stokeford Heaths consists of several heathland fragments occupying a ridge of high ground (up to 60 metres) between the rivers Piddle and Frome. The ridge is formed from sands and clays of the Bagshot Beds overlain with plateau gravels. The original heathland area has been reduced in extent and fragmented by the quarrying of these deposits. The site is important for its heath and mire plant communities and for the many rare and scarce species associated with the heath and mire. 

Studland and Godlingston Heaths

Underlying the south and west of this site are the Bagshot Beds against which sand dunes have built up over the past 3 or 4 centuries forming a large part of the South Haven Peninsula and enclosing a lake, Little Sea. In addition to the importance of the peninsula as a key site for coastal geomorphology, the range of habitats on Studland and Godlingston Heaths, including a fine expanse of heathland with many rare animals, makes this area of outstanding importance for nature conservation.

Studland Cliffs

An outstanding stratigraphic and structural site of national importance, the strike and dip cliff section displays unequalled exposures of mid-Campanian Chalk, especially important for palaeontological studies. To the south the Upper Chalk is separated from the Lower and Middle Chalk by the spectacular Ballard Down Fault.

Sutton Meadows

These meadows which lie on drift deposits over London Clay, have been subject to many years of traditional management for hay. In consequence, they support a rich community of plants typical of damp neutral to mildly acid hay meadows. This type of grassland, once widespread, is now very uncommon due to agricultural improvement.

Sydling Valley Downs

About 12 km north east of Dorchester, this site occupies chalk slopes on the east side of the valley of the Sydling Water, a small tributary of the River Frome. Its major interest and importance lie in its chalk grassland which, on predominantly west facing slopes, supports rich and varied plant and animal communities typical of the chalk of westcentral Dorset. Included in the site is some ancient woodland which has considerable biological interest.

The Moors

Formerly part of Arne SSSI. The site includes some botanically very rich road verges which form part of a complex of verges, mostly within the Arne SSSI. Boundary amended by deletion.

Thrashers Heath

A small remnant of heathland on the acidic Bagshot Sands, lying between the larger heathland blocks of Hartland Moor and Godlingston Heath. In the past, the site has been worked for clay and parts provide interesting examples of recolonisation by heathland plants and animals.

Toller Porcorum

This site holds a range of rich grassland communities which are now rare or absent elsewhere in Dorset. Underlying the higher land is Upper Greensand beneath which there is band of Gault Clay, overlying Fuller's Earth. In the north of the site, chalk occurs above the Upper Greensand. This varied geology and a history of traditional management have given rise to an exceptional mixture of acid, neutral and mildly calcareous swards. Natural watercourses and pockets of woodland and scrub add further habitat diversity. 

Town Common

Town Common SSSI covers an extensive tract of lowland heathland centred on a hilly ridge separating the floodplain of the Avon Valley from the Moors River. Exposures of the deposits forming this ridge are of special geological interest. The topography is diverse, and with variations in the underlying geology and drainage conditions, there is a varied mosaic of heathland plant communities. Areas of succession from open heath to conifer and mixed woodland add further interest.


Description and Reasons for Notification: Lying on Jurassic limestone of the Purbeck Beds, Townsend supports calcareous grassland and scrub. The area was formerly quarried for Purbeck stone and the underground galleries and associated quarry entrances provide important winter roosting sites for bats, including the rare greater horseshoe bat Rhinolophus ferrum-equinum.

Trill Quarry

This is a key locality in studies of Bathonian (Middle Jurassic) stratigraphy. It shows sections through the Thornford Beds of the Fullers Earth Rock. This has been defined as the type locality for the base of the standard Tulites subcontractus zone. The zonal index ammonite T . subcontractus is very common at the site.

Turbary and Kinson Commons

This site comprises the Public Open Spaces of both Turbary Common and the nearby Kinson Common, which overlay the acidic deposits of Plateau gravels and Bagshot Beds. The richness of these relic heathland communities, both in terms of their vegetation and associated fauna, is made even more significant by their urban location.

Turnerspuddle Heath

This extensive area of lowland heathland lies between the rivers Piddle and Frome. It has developed on infertile soils derived from Bagshot sands and clays overlain locally with plateau gravels. A small area of heath also occurs on Reading Beds. The site contains one of the largest continuous heathland tracts remaining in Dorset although the heath has been fragmented by forestry plantation and military activity. Many of the typical Dorset heathland species that have become nationally rare through heathland loss are well represented.

Upton Heath

Although but a part of the previously more extensive Poole Heath, Upton remains one of the largest continuous tracts of heathland in Dorset. Its heathland communities have developed on acid soils derived from Bagshot Beds overlain locally with plateau gravels. The site supports many of the rare plants and animals typically associated with this internationally important habitat.

Upwey Quarries and Bincombe Down

The ancient Upwey Quarries expose a sequence through the lower half of the Purbeck Beds, from the basal Dirt and Cap beds to the Cherty Freshwater and Cinder beds: making this the thickest sequence in Dorset away from the coastal sections of the Lulworth–Durlston outcrop. Of particular note, above the very variable basal units and the ‘Cypris Freestone’, are the ‘Soft Cockle Beds’ and adjacent Lower and Upper Insect Beds described in the mid 1800’s by Fisher. These beds have yielded numerous insect specimens of interest.

Valley of Stones

Valley of Stones SSSI is situated approximately 1g km to the north of Portesham in southern Dorset and consists of dry valleys and slopes on Upper Chalk, with overlying deposits of pebbly clay and sand and Bagshot Beds in the eastern part of the site. The site is famous for its fine train of sarsen stones and also contains a diverse range of unimproved grassland types, uncommon lichens, mosses, liverworts and scarce butterflies.

Verwood Heaths

Three pieces of heathland in the vicinity of Verwood near the north west limit of the Bagshot Beds. Dry, humid and wet heathland types are represented and several uncommon animals confined to the heathlands of southern England occur.

Wareham Common

Wareham Common is an area of grazing marsh, divided into three blocks, lying in the flood plain of the River Piddle. The river, a chalk stream in its upper catchment, influences the site with base-rich flood water, whereas the immediate catchment provides acidic ground water from soils derived from the Bagshot Beds. The prevalence of acidic or base-rich waters has resulted in considerable variation in plant communities present. All three areas support herb-rich, unimproved grassland communities which are now uncommon both in Dorset and nationally

Wareham Meadows

The site comprises the grazing meadows along the lower reaches of the Rivers Frome and Piddle adjoining Poole Harbour. The flood plains are underlain by river alluvium over peat and are strongly affected by groundwater. The interest of the site is closely linked to that of Poole Harbour, as it provides one of the few large areas of permanent grassland adjacent to the estuarine system and, as such, is of great value for wintering birds as a feeding site and a high water roost. The river valleys are also of importance for breeding birds throughout the summer.

Warmwell Heath

Warmwell Heath represents one of the most westerly blocks of Dorset heathland and has a long history of isolation which is of interest for the study of habitat fragmentation and the resulting faunal and floral richness. The heathland lies over the acidic Bagshot Beds and Plateau Gravels of the Poole Basin, with alluvial deposits and peat predominant within the adjacent river valley. The area supports a range of heathland habitats from dry heath to bog. Associated with the heathland are peripheral areas of woodland, carr and swamp vegetation.

West Dorset Coast

The West Dorset Coast between Chesil Beach and Devonshire Head near Lyme Regis is an internationally important geological site, particularly famous for its fossil reptiles. The varied undercliffs have a wide range of habitats which support a number of rare plants and animals. Adjoining the coastline are unusually large areas of herb-rich grassland of a type now very restricted in occurrence.

Whetly Meadows

These fields, lying on the Lower Fullers Earth Clay and Corallian Beds, support an exceptionally diverse flora reflecting a long history of traditional management for hay. A stretch of disused railway line with a rich bank flora is also included in this site.

White Horse Hill

White Horse Hill forms part of the steep south-facing scarp at the southern edge of the Dorset chalk, overlooking the valley of the River Jordan, north of Weymouth. The site overlies bands of Upper, Middle and Lower Chalk on which herb-rich grassland communities have developed. These communities, unmodified by agricultural improvement, are now nationally rare and here support a wide range of uncommon butterfly species.

Winfrith Heath

Winfrith Heath is a substantial and varied tract of heathland near the western limit of the Dorset heaths natural area. Here a small chalk stream - Tadnoll Brook - has cut through early Eocene-aged sands and clays belonging to the Bagshot beds. A range of heath and mire communities have developed on the valley sides and unimproved wet pastureland occurs on the valley floor.


The site comprises a system of valleys cutting through the Lower Chalk, Upper Greensand and Gault Clay and holding small tributary streams of the River Hooke. On the lower-lying Gault Clay, which receives base-rich seepage water from above, rich fen communities have developed over peat and there is also wet woodland with a diverse associated flora. Parts of the higher slopes support unimproved acidic grassland

Wootton Fitzpaine

These unimproved meadows lie over clays and shales of the Lower Lias on the north bank of a small tributary of the River Char. As a result of a long history of traditional management, partly for hay, there are extremely rich communities of grassland plants. Dry and damp neutral grassland occurs on the slopes with wetter plant communities in hollows and on lower ground

Worgret Heath

This site comprises a small area of heathland situated between the rivers Frome and Piddle on acidic Bagshot Sands and Plateau Gravels. A remnant of the once extensive heath in this area, the site is important for the rare and protected sand lizard Lacerta agilis.