Holt Heath NNR is one of Dorset’s largest remaining areas of lowland heathland.
Main habitats: Lowland Heath
Area: 488 Ha
To the north west of the heath are two separate areas of semi-natural ancient woodland (Holt Forest and Holt Wood) that are also part of the reserve.
Dry heath, wet heath and mire communities are all represented at the site. Local plants include common heather, bell heather, cross-leaved heath, bog asphodel, sundews and marsh gentian.
Birds include large populations of Dartford warbler, stonechat and nightjar. The heath is Dorset’s only site for breeding curlew and all six of Britain’s reptile species are found here.
The reserve’s woodland is predominantly oak – many of which are magnificent old pollards – with some areas dominated by beech. Much of the lower layer is dense holly which has developed since grazing ceased on the site.
The aim is to secure the long-term future of the heath through sustainable management. Gorse is managed on a 10 to 12 year rotation to provide vigorous growth. On the open heath invading scrub and pine is removed, leaving scattered pine and birch trees, while a well developed scrub margin is maintained on most of the boundary.
The best time to visit the site is July and August for wild flowers.
Location and access
The reserve is 12 km north of Bournemouth and 3 km north of the town of Ferndown. The largest part of the reserve is south of, and immediately adjacent to, the village of Holt Heath, and 1 km north west of West Moors village.
By car, the reserve is accessed via minor roads from the A31, B3078 and B3072. There is a car park on the Heath’s western boundary.
The nearest train station is in Bournemouth served by South West Trains and Virgin Trains.
There are regular bus services from Bournemouth to Ferndown and less frequent services to West Moors and other local villages.
West Moors is on the path of a local cycle route and trail called the Castleman Trailway.
The nearest toilet and refreshment facilities are in local towns and villages.
There are a number of tracks and paths across the heath, some of them allowing easy access in dry weather.
Interpretation panels and leaflets are provided for visitor information.
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