Heading towards Christchurch, visit picturesque Hengistbury Head – one of the most important Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) in England – boasting walking routes that lead to spectacular and panoramic views of the nature reserve, Christchurch harbour, Bournemouth Bay and across to the Isle of Wight.
Hengistbury Head is a fascinating place not only for its wide variety of habitats (including heathland, grassland, scrub, woodland, freshwater wetland and coastland) but also for its internationally important archaeology and geology.
These diverse habitats create homes for over 500 plant species, 300 types of birds, a superb variety of insects, reptiles and small mammals – adders, skylarks, sand-lizards and natterjack toads (one of Britain’s rarest creatures) all call this place home.
The headland’s stunning geological formations hold secrets from years gone by; millions of years in fact. Evidence has shown that people have lived, worked and played at this site for around 12,000 years. Although much of that evidence is hidden, there are clues all over the site if you know where to look – the Visitor Centre is a great place to start your visit, to either pick up a trail leaflet, look at the exhibition, or find out from the team what to look out for en route.
Over a million visitors come to enjoy Hengistbury Head each year - that’s a lot of footsteps on a fragile landscape. But the rangers and volunteers manage a constant balancing act between providing access for people and protecting the landscape, wildlife and archaeology that make this place so special.
Hengistbury Head is a relatively unspoilt beach, consistently featuring in the annual TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice® awards for Beaches. It has a south-facing pebble beach, with imposing clay and ironstone cliffs, and soft, sandy beaches at Mudeford spit, which is lined with the famous colourful Mudeford beach huts. Well-behaved dogs are welcome on site, but off the beaches, please respect that this is a nature reserve with plenty of rare and easily-frightened wildlife, keeping your four-legged friends under close control (on a lead is just perfect).
A nice idea might be to spend the day at Hengistbury Head – ride the land train from the Hiker Café down to Mudeford and enjoy the beaches, take a pleasant stroll back (if you wish), stopping in at the Visitor Centre to pick up a few local, coastal or environmentally-friendly souvenirs (the money spent in the shop helps support the conservation work on site). There is plenty of parking, with toilets and cafés at both ends of the site.
Please help to keep the reserve a special place for all, and make sure you #leaveonlyfootprints.