Arne RSPB Nature Reserve
Arne RSPB Nature Reserve

The Arne RSPB Nature Reserve is a large nature reserve on the south bank of Poole Harbour in Dorset, taking in over 1,392 acres (5.6 square kilometres) of mixed habitat including ancient oak woodland, reed beds, mudflats, salt marshes, and lowland heath. The reserve is also a designated SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest).

The star bird species at Arne is the Dartford Warbler (Sylvia Undata), which had almost died out completely in the UK by the 1960s before recovering. The best time to see the warblers is during spring when they are nesting. The RSPB maintains nest cams so you can get a closer look at the warblers without disturbing them.

Birds abound in Poole Harbour
Birds abound in Poole Harbour

Aside from the Dartford Warbler, other species commonly found at Arne include the spoonbill, woodlark, and nightjar.

Arne provides an important habitat for reptiles and animals as well as birds. The reserve is one of the few places in the UK where you can find all six native species of UK reptiles, including the sand lizard, common lizard, grass snake, smooth snake, adder, and slow worm.

Sika deer graze the heathland
Sika deer graze the heathland

Sika Deer

One very unusual animal species at Arne is one that you would never expect to see living wild in the UK; sika deer. A herd of some 500 Sika roams the reserve's woodland and heath. The herd was formed from animals that escaped from deer parks in the Victorian period and found a home in the woods and fields bordering Poole Harbour.

We ran across a large group of Sika deer on the footpath from Arne to Shipstal Point, where it passes through a stand of oak woodland. They must have been relatively at ease near humans, for they allowed us to get close enough to easily photograph them while they grazed amid the trees.

They won't be quite so relaxed in autumn, during the rutting season, when the stags bellow their challenges! Autumn is also the best time to spot osprey fishing in the harbour or eating their catch on a timber post set up along the water's edge by the RSPB.

Sika deer in Arne woods
Sika deer in Arne woods

Winter is the best time of the year to see wading birds, with large numbers of avocets and spoonbills passing through the reserve.

The RSPB reserve forms part of the larger Purbeck and Dorset AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty).

A boat drawn up on the shore at Shipstal Point
A boat drawn up on the shore at Shipstal Point

Arne Village

At the heart of the reserve is the rural village of Arne. The village was taken over by the military during World War Two, and, though the military did not retain ownership following the conflict's end, the village never recovered. Today it is little more than a hamlet centred around the 13th-century church of St Nicholas.

Seven walking trails lead across Arne RSPB Nature Reserve. Each trail is colour-coded, and offer both easy and more difficult walks. There are bird hides dotted along the edge of Poole Harbour. Two trails lead south through Coombe Heath. This is a quieter part of the reserve and the best area to spot Dartford Warblers.

There are toilets, a shop, and a cafe at the RSPB car park, located at the southern end of the village. There is no charge to explore the reserve, but there is a parking charge (free for RSPB members). Dogs are allowed on the reserve walking trails, but only on leads.

Getting There

From Wareham, take the B3075 to Stoborough and turn left onto New Road where you see the signpost to Arne. From New Road turn right onto Arne Road and follow it to the village where you will see the RSPB car park to your right.

About Arne RSPB Nature Reserve
Address: Arne, Dorset, England, BH20 5BJ
Attraction Type: Countryside
Location: The RSPB car park is at the southern edge of Arne village, four miles east of Wareham.
Website: Arne RSPB Nature Reserve
Location map
OS: SY972878
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express


Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low to exceptional) on historic interest

Arne, St Nicholas Church - 0.2 miles (Historic Church)

Brownsea Island - 3.6 miles (Countryside) Heritage Rating

Corfe Castle - 3.6 miles (Castle) Heritage Rating

Corfe Castle, St Edward the Martyr Church - 3.7 miles (Historic Church) Heritage Rating

Compton Acres - 5.1 miles (Garden) Heritage Rating

Studland, St Nicholas Church - 5.2 miles (Historic Church) Heritage Rating

Worth Matravers, St Nicholas Church - 6.4 miles (Historic Church) Heritage Rating

Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum - 7.6 miles (Museum) Heritage Rating

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