Dorset, a county centrally located in the south of England, is the home of one of its largest tourist attractions, Brownsea Island. It is at its large capacity to offer a café, gift shop, wildlife nature reserve, camping site, scout stone and a church, all on the same Island! It is safe to say that the island captures the spirit of adventure, just as it did to Robert Baden Powell himself. You can even camp in the same area of the island where his scouting team’s experimental camp was based over 200 years ago.
The Island’s Introduction
With a ticket to Brownsea Island in hand, I board the ferry which escorts me to the island. A good 20 minutes on this ferry gives me time to observe the visible front of the island, floating casually. As I arrive on the island itself, I am immediately greeted by the main village area of the island. This is the area where I can prepare to explore the Island in full either for a good four hours or for the entire day (12 hours). Unfortunately, due to Covid regulations, I am only able to devote four hours of my time on the Island, and thus commence this four-hour adventure across it.
There is an area I notice on a map nearby catching my eye straight away – an area known as ‘DWT’. Looking at a signage board next to this area, I interpret DWT to be the Island’s wildlife trail. A boardwalk is presented in front of me, and I venture forth, strolling gradually.
Right off the bend, I am surrounded by marshland-like grass on both sides of me, with a view looking over towards mainland Dorset on my right. In front of the view, a solitary tree stands in a lagoon, observing the tourists who walk by. Further along this path, I come across a group of ducklings, well camouflaged with the ground they waddle on as they wait for their mother to provide food for them. Walking further along, the boardwalk reaches its climax, and a whole new area embracing Brownsea’s wildlife opens up before me.
After heading to my right, the squawking of an entire village of seagulls can be heard on my left, as I edge closer toward it. Not the type of sound you would wish to hear 24/7 if you were to live on the island. I approach the entrance pathways to my right, which lead to two separate Hides: Avocet and Tern. Although temporarily closed off, these hides are the perfect haven for keen ornithologists, particularly in the high season.
Hike Through the Heathland
Three enchanting walking routes are available to pick from, to assist you in making up your mind on where to walk, and where to begin. The walks on offer are the ‘Viewpoints and Woodland Walk’, a walk through the heathlands of Brownsea, and the ‘Scouting and Maryland Walk’. I give myself an aim to sample a segment of all three routes, as four hours
of completing all three routes on the Island will cause a heap of rush.
I begin by sauntering towards the west of the Island, along the ‘Viewpoints and Woodland Walk’. More wildlife comes into view ahead of me, including fowls and pheasants, free-roaming with the knowledge that poaching doesn’t exist on this island. Further along, the remains of an old vinery come into view, where once it assisted in producing the grapevines of Brownsea. This marks the departing of the ‘Viewpoints and Woodland walk’, and the beginning of the ‘Heathland walk’.
I progress with my westward walking for a further twenty minutes, surrounded by the silence cascading around me, along with the beautiful greenery of the trees and bushes. I then bare left, and then take another left after another ten minutes, only to be approaching the heathland area of the island.
This is possibly the evenest-looking area of the Island I am likely to come across, made even more picturesque with the bushes laying before me near and far. As I admire my
green surroundings, I continue to stroll along the path which eventually takes me toward the Scout Stone, commemorating Robert Baden Powell and his experimental camp from over 200 years ago.
Scouting the Baden Powell Way
A view overlooking the experimental camp is presented before me, with the white specks representing the glamping tents. This gives aspiring scout groups the chance to adventure in Baden Powell’s footsteps and bring out the true scout in them. Having embraced the feeling of adventure also absorbed by Baden Powell, I decide to slowly adventure towards to departure point of the Island.
A daffodil field crops up on my right after bearing left and then right again. Ten minutes of hiking alongside this field find me closing in on the end of my journey on this island, which makes me feel as disappointed as Baden Powell must have felt. Even he understood the despair of leaving such a wonderful place behind to continue with his life.
I turn to my left and head toward a church. Who would have thought people flock to this island for a Sunday service at a church on an Island? I never did. A church that is also surrounded by cockerels and peacocks. The perfect setting for a quixotic wedding on the island perhaps.
My journey on this majestic Island approaches its end. Although disappointed I am not a part of the rare opportunity to encounter a red squirrel, I am proud to have captured the spirit of Baden Powell. And long may I keep hold of this spirit until the next time I return, for a longer period of exploration and possibly uncovering discoveries I come across on Brownsea Island.
Getting to the Island
· There are a good handful of ticket stalls doing their best to offer the best ticket deals for a visit to the Island. Tickets are also available on the National Trust website, at https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/brownsea-island/.
· Tickets for adult National Trust members value at £12.50 per person for a return ferry fare. Adult non-members cost at £21.50 per person for a return ferry fare.
Staying on the Island
· Camping – The cost for a pitched six-person tent values at a minimum of £100 for two nights. A glamping option is also available, at the minimum cost of £180 for two nights. Bookings for scout and guide groups will become available in 2022.
· Holiday cottages – The cottages on offer are the Agents and Custom Houses. Both cottages offer prices that differ per season. The cheapest is £376 for a minimum of three nights.
· South Shore Lodge – The cost for a three-night stay in this lodge is £1150. This price is for the lodge itself, which can contain up to 12 guests.
· For more information on the accommodation available on Brownsea Island, please Click Here and scroll down to the ‘Places to Stay’ section.