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The Great Heath projects Poole

Updated 23rd October 2017

At Corfe Hills West we made dramatic improvements by enhancing access to the site from Higher Blandford Road. What had been a very narrow track hemmed in by tall gorse and bramble is now a wide track allowing good public access and a route for Dorset Fire and Rescue Service (DFRS) to use in the case of a heathland fire. Where the track was soft path gravel has been laid to improve its quality. As the clearance work has opened up the area have installed a locked gate to prevent illegal access; DFRS has a key to this lock.

Prior to this project the heath was obscured by a wall of gorse - now there is a lovely view across the site to Corfe Mullen (illustrated in the before-and-after photos below).

During summer 2015 we carried out work to improve a track in Delph Woods, while at Arrowsmith Coppice the rhododendron mulch left by the previous winter’s clearance work was scraped up; initially most of this was mounded up on site to rot down before being taken away for composting off site.  

Contact details

Lead Officer: Jez Martin Project Officer - Biodiversity, Borough of Poole

Tel: 01202 261338  

Email: environment@poole.gov.uk

The Great Heath Living Landscape is a partnership of conservation organisations and local authorities, led by Dorset Wildlife Trust, that have come together to make the project a reality.

The partnership includes Borough of Poole, Poole Harbour Commissioners, Dorset County Council Countryside Services, the Erica Trust and Amphibian & Reptile Conservation Trust.

At Corfe Hills West and Delph Woods vegetation has been cut back from tracks to improve ease of use. Other track work is planned, including improvements to the surface of some of the footpaths there.

During January and February 2015 contractors cleared trees on Corfe Hills West by the side of the Roman Road in order to improve fire access and cleared birch and leggy gorse from an section of Delph Woods..

Get involved

Volunteer Work Party Tasks - there are currently opportunities to get involved in site clearance and other tasks in Poole and at other Great Heath project site in Dorset; please see our events diary for details

Online environmental recording at www.livingrecord.netFor those interested in recording wildlife please consider joining Living Record www.livingrecord.net. By using this web based online recording system your wildlife records can be seen by the site managers as soon as you have added them. You will need to register as a user and then, once in, mark where you saw wildlife on Google Maps and add species seen. There are other options that can be filled in, but only if you wish to, such as numbers.

Project background

Through the wider Great Heaths project led by Dorset Wildlife Trust a total of £4.7 million was raised to buy, in April 2014, 20 lots (almost 1500 acres) of the Canford Estate for the benefit of people and wildlife [ more information here ].

Of the 20 lots purchased Borough of Poole has acquired three, with a combined area of 27.06 ha (67.32 acres) which allows the creation of two new open spaces, Arrowsmith Coppice and Corfe Hills West, and the extension of a third - Part of Delph Woods adjoining woodland already owned by Borough of Poole

Corfe Hills West is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and the other two are Sites of Nature Conservation Interest (SNCIs). It is a very long time since these spaces have been managed in any way and they will require development work to enhance their value to people and wildlife.  

Other Great Heath Living Landscapes sites in Poole include Holes Bay Nature Park, Upton Heath Nature Reserve & Lytchett Bay Nature Reserve.


February 2016 - we have started installing new signage at some of the sites. The first are those in Corfe Hills area, where the newly acquired Corfe Hills West and sites already owned by Borough of Poole and Amphibian & Reptile Conservation Trust, together with land acquired by Dorset Wildlife have been combined to create Corfe Barrows Nature Park.

At Corfe Hills West there are new site name signs and one information panel beside Higher Blandford Road, while at the Ashington Cutting the old site name sign has been replaced. Next to Ashington Cutting, Dorset Wildlife Trust has installed new signage at their new site of Ashington Meadow. In the future some of the cattle that currently graze Canford Heath Nature Reserve will be grazing this meadow during the winter time.

At Arrowsmith Coppice rhododendron clearance has continued with both contractors and a large number of willing volunteers sustained by baked potatoes at lunchtime, cooked on the fire burning up the cut rhododendron. Armed with loppers and bowsaws the volunteers make a huge difference in just one day as can be seen in our photographs below.

Site information

Click here for a full size overview

Click on the image for a full size overview



This is 9.10 ha (22.48 acre) of mixed deciduous woodland with areas of Scots Pine, a small area of dry heath, lake and carr woodland. It is in three sections on the western side of Gravel Hill, to the north of Dunyeats Hill (another Great Heath Project site now owned and managed by Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust.)

The site is divided into three by land already owned by Borough of Poole - the access road to the car parks in the woodland and the Blackwater stream to the south. To the west is the original area of woodland owned by Borough of Poole.      

It is a Site of Nature Conservation Interest (SNCI).

The three new spaces acquired by this project are marked in red on the map (right). Green marks the land already owned by Borough of Poole; the combined area of new and existing land owned at Delph Woods now totals 32.58 ha (80.5 acres).

The name Delph comes from old English word for quarry, these quarries are now the ponds and lakes in this area.

Click here for a full size overview

Site information

Click on the image for a full size overview



This is a 5.8 ha (14.34 acre) triangular area of mainly heathland with a fringe of woodland, by the northern boundary of Corfe Hills School alongside Higher Blandford Road. On the western side it is bounded by The Roman Road, part of which is designated a Scheduled Monument.

The land acquired by this project is marked in red on the map (right).

The whole site is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), Special Protection Area (SPA), Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and Ramsar site for its heathland wildlife.

On the opposite side of Higher Blandford Road are three more parts of Corfe Hills SSSI that are owned and managed by Borough of Poole. Plus another area owned and managed by the Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust.

Corfe is derived from the Old English word for ‘pass’, as in ‘pass between hills’.

Corfe Barrows Nature Park / Ashington Cutting - new site signage

Ashington Meadow and new site signage

Corfe Hills West before clearance work

After: improved access and a new view across the site to Corfe Mullen

Arrowsmith Coppice before clearance work

A bridge now connects the lay-bys at Gravel Hill Road & Arrowsmith Road

Seven volunteer tasks at Arrowsmith Coppice helped tackle the wall of Rhododendron with great success. The thickest part of the jungle of Rhododendron (in the south west corner) was cleared by contractor; they cleared around the stream to allow installation of a bridge to connect the lay-bys on Gravel Hill Road and Arrowsmith Road, encouraging public access to the site. 

The before & after pictures below show the results of their work viewed from lay-by on Gravel Hill Road; the photo also shows the newly installed gravel ramp from this lay-by.

Holes Bay Nature Park, August 2016

Holes Part of The Great Heath Living Landscape. MacDonald’s have sponsored two new information boards alongside Holes Bay Local Nature Park, to add to the two already installed as part of The Great Heath Project. The boards describe the rare wildlife of the area, some of its history and gives information on how to care for the internationally important habitats & species, such as how to avoid disturbance of bird sensitive areas, and detailing the Poole Harbour Bait Digging Code.

On 30th August 2016 Poole’s Mayor, Councillor Xena Dion, unveiled the board that stands on the site closest to Holes Bay MacDonald’s, making a speech extolling the importance of the Poole Harbour wildlife and the value of working in partnership with Dorset Wildlife Trust and MacDonald’s. She then invited the daughter of a MacDonald’s staff member to help her cut the ribbon. After the unveiling MacDonald’s staff from branches in Poole, Bournemouth and Southampton, helped by two children, carried out a litter pick along Holes Bay.

Site information

Click on the image for a full size overview

Click here for a full size overview


This site is located to east of Gravel Hill Road and to the north of Arrowsmith Road, just to the north of Canford Heath SSSI. It is marked in red on the map (right). Green marks areas of land already owned by Borough of Poole.

It is almost an arrow shaped area of 12.16 ha (30.05 acres), mainly of mixed woodland dominated by Rhododendron, with a small area of wet heathland in the north-east corner.

Arrowsmith Coppice is a Site of Nature Conservation Interest (SNCI) with a small section in the north-west corner that is also designated as Ancient Woodland.

Besides nature conservation, it has archaeological and historical interest. Sometime before 1948 a flint blade from The Upper Palaeolithic (between 50,000 and 10,000 years ago) was found near the junction of Gravel Hill Road and Arrowsmith Road, making it one of the earliest evidence of man in Poole. Slightly more recent are two bowl barrows in the eastern part of the site, from late Neolithic to Late Bronze Age, although most likely dating from 4,400-3,500 years ago. Each of these bowl barrows will be covering a single or multiple burial and as far as is known have never been excavated. Often these acted as a focus for burials from later periods. The southern barrow has a mound which is 19m in diameter, while the second barrow, which is to the north-west, is smaller at 12m in diameter and is slightly lower in height. The quarry ditches to make the mounds are no longer visible on the surface around either mound but will survive as buried features approximately 2m wide. These barrows are protected under law as a Scheduled Monument.

Although the site is arrow shaped that is not the reason behind its name. After Sir John Webb, owner of Canford Estate, died in 1797 he left his estate to Edmund Arrowsmith as a trustee during the lifetime of his daughter the Countess of Shaftesbury and her daughter Lady Barbara Ashley, who married the Hon. W.F.S. Ponsonby, who was later created Lord de Mauley. Lady de Mauley died in 1844 and the estate was sold to Sir John Guest in 1846. His son Ivor Guest became the first Lord Wimborne and his descendants owned the area until sold in 2014.


3rd July 2016 - twenty-one staff from MacDonald’s branches across Poole, Bournemouth & Southampton came together at Holes Bay Nature Park to carry out a litter pick along the western shore. This is part of their ‘Love Where You Live’ campaign to help look after the local environment. 

The volunteers came from MacDonald’s restaurants at Holes Bay, Poole High Street, Bournemouth St Paul’s, Castlepoint, Southampton Esplanade and West Quay.

MacDonald’s staff will be carrying out regular summer litter picks in this area of Holes Bay from now on, and in the winter time will help manage the scrub to aid a colony of the rare Small Blue Butterfly and rare plants.

Boards designed by Dorset Wildlife Trust with support and installation by Borough of Poole.  

Site information

Click here for a larger view of the Holes Bay map

Click on the image for a larger view


The 286 hectare (707 acre) Holes Bay Nature Park stretches from Asda (opposite Poole Railway Station) to Upton Country Park and Hamworthy. The Nature Park was launched in March 2015 as a new initiative to bring together landowners, local communities and local businesses to enjoy and help to look after this very special place.

It is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), Special Protection Area (SPA) and RAMSAR site.

It is one of the best places to enjoy the wildlife of Poole Harbour. The saltmarsh and intertidal mudflats are a haven for wetland birds, many of which feed on the rich invertebrate life of Poole Harbour's mud.

Species found here include the black-tailed godwit, little egret, redshank, kingfisher, oystercatcher, curlew, avocet, teal, wigeon, red-breasted merganser, spoonbill; bass, mullet, flounder, corkwing wrasse, gobies, clams and cockles; more than 80 species of marine invertebrates including king ragworm; woodland ground flora, saltmarsh plants and grassland with orchids.

The area north of the railway line is a bird sensitive area, due to its use by internationally significant numbers of feeding and roosting birds.

Further site information is available at Dorset Wildlife Trust

Arrowsmith Coppice, May & October 2017

In May the main entrances to Arrowsmith Coppice were marked by site name boards and information panels, describing the history, wildlife and future of this wildlife area. One set of signs may be easily seen by the side of Gravel Hill.

The information panels were designed by local artist Maria Burns.

In next few months new site signage and information panels are due to be installed at Delph Woods, the other side of Gravel Hill.

Site information boards beside Arrowsmith Road

Site signage at Gravel Hill

Arrowsmith Road layby - resurfaced to improve and encourage access

◄ October 2017

As part of the Great Heath project Borough of Poole resurfaced the layby on Arrowsmith Road to improve and encourage access to the 12 ha (30 acres) of Arrowsmith Coppice.

Arrowsmith Coppice Corfe Hills West Delph Woods Holes Bay Nature Park
Arrowsmith Coppice
12.16 hectares (more than 30 acres) of new open space for Poole
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Corfe Hills West
5.8 hectares (more than 14 acres) of new open space for Poole
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At Delph Woods
9.10 hectares (more than 22 acres) of woodland adjacent to the existing public open space
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Holes Bay Nature Park
286 hectares (more than 700 acres) located in the heart of Poole, and one of the best places to enjoy the wildlife of Poole Harbour
Read about this site