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Studland: a photo essay

Joël Lacey explores the huge variety of habitats and wildlife on a busy tourist peninsula

A single fern attempts to colonise a path heading towards Little Sea

One of the joys of the summer is the long days; one of the drawbacks of this when visiting one of Dorset’s best beaches is having to get up at 4.00 to get there before the morning masses. It is certainly worth the early alarm call, however.

The easternmost point of the South West Coast Path at South Haven Point; picture taken at dawn

Between the beach and the road at the South Haven point part of Studland lies the area of Studland Heath. This relatively recent habitat (it has only been there for six hundred years, which is a heartbeat in geological terms) exists thanks to the accumulation of sand which was then stabilised initially by marram grass, which enriched the soil sufficiently for heaths and even woodland to form.

A fisherman plies his trade, but pauses to take in the beauty of his surroundings


A little bit of blue sky and cloud peeps through the branches of a tree in one of the many ponds on the penisula

Doing a circular walk of no more than five miles, one meets habitat after habitat, not to mention all kinds of flora, fauna and, perhaps best of all, surprising vista after surprising vista. From bare, almost lunar, craters, to beautiful views over to Poole, Brownsea Island, Bournemouth and Studland, there is always something to see looking outwards from the peninsula, but it is a terrible waste not to explore the interior too.

The heathland may only be centuries old, rather than millennia or millions of years, but there is still a breathtaking variety of plants and small animals, from insects like ants and damselflies, to snails and the shells of other molluscs deposited by feeding birds. The flora varies from lichens to coarse grasses to ferns and trees

Within a few steps of the beach – and its marine and shoreline diversity – are dunes; a hundred metres or so further inland, and brackish pools, heathland and woodland can be added to the list of habitats. Walk softly, and rabbits and deer will appear, while overhead a huge number of different species argue over territory, call to their mates and quarter the sky above heath, dunes, shore and sea for food. Studland is a breathtaking place to bathe, but also to stand and stare at the bounty of the natural world.

Part of a plaque celebrating the South West Coast Path


Looking north-east towards Sandbanks

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