Holton Heath National Nature Reserve



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The eastern part of Holton Heath NNR was a factory producing explosives during World War II. Due to the dangers posed by contamination, this part of the reserve is closed. Holton Heath is an extensive area of woodland and lowland heath but Sandford Heath is the only part which is accessible, and offers a rare example of Dorset’s ancient heathland. Near the western entrance is an area of woodland which includes beech, alder and birch. This gradually changes to mature Scots pine, before you emerge onto the open heath. In the spring and summer you’ll see stonechats and woodlarks and the Dartford warbler, as well as more common birds such as meadow pipit and skylark. The eastern part of the site was occupied by the cordite factory, and an imposing concrete gun tower can still be seen, one of a ring of anti-aircraft defences that once protected the factory.

Holton Heath National Nature Reserve
Holton Heath


About the area

Discover Dorset

Dorset means rugged varied coastlines and high chalk downlands. Squeezed in among the cliffs and set amid some of Britain’s most beautiful scenery is a chain of picturesque villages and seaside towns. Along the coast you’ll find the Lulworth Ranges, which run from Kimmeridge Bay in the east to Lulworth Cove in the west. Together with a stretch of East Devon, this is Britain’s Jurassic Coast, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, noted for its layers of shale and numerous fossils embedded in the rock. Among the best-known natural landmarks on this stretch of the Dorset coast is Durdle Door, a rocky arch that has been shaped and sculpted to perfection by the elements. The whole area has the unmistakable stamp of prehistory.

Away from Dorset’s magical coastline lies a landscape with a very different character and atmosphere, but one that is no less appealing. Here, winding, hedge-lined country lanes lead beneath lush, green hilltops to snug, sleepy villages hidden from view and the wider world. The people of Dorset are justifiably proud of the achievements of Thomas Hardy, its most famous son, and much of the county is immortalised in his writing. 

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