Brownsea Island in Poole Harbour holds great history and has become a wildlife haven

brownsea island

On the day of my visit to Brownsea Island in I took the ferry from Sandbanks as the sun beat down on a huge number of pleasure boats going out to sea, all dwarfed by the Brittany Ferry Barfleur coming in from Cherborg.

You disembark onto a jetty and go straight into the National Trust office where you pay a fee to enter as it is the Trust who own the island.If you are a member however it is free.

A change of ownership

The island has been through several owners since it was seized by Henry VIII after the dissolution of the monasteries in the 15th centuary.

The last private owner was Mary Bonham Christie who lived on the island until her death in 1962.The island past to her grandson but he was unable to pay the death duties so ownership passed to the Treasury.

The Government offered the island to the National Trust on condition that it paid and endowment of £100000.A campaign was started to raise the money and one big contributor was the John Lewis Partnership a company that owns a chain of department stores and supermarkets in the UK.

The payment was on condition John Lewis could lease Brownsea Castle and surrounding buildings for use by their staff as a holiday destination.This continues to this day with John Lewis staff enjoying four star accommodation at two star prices.I am told though there is a two year waiting list

Moving past the mock tudor entrance there is a National Trust shop and restaurant where wholesome food and drink is for sale including the delicious Purbeck Ice Cream.

Scouting for Boys

baden powell stone

Continuing along the south of the island you will come to the Scout Commemorative Stone which marks the spot where Robert Baden-Powell held the very first Experimental Camp for boys in August 1907.

The boys,all 12 of them, learnt tracking,chivalry,first aid,lighting fires, and sports.Bed was at 9pm prompt.They came from diverse social backgrounds some public school some town boys,unusual for class conscious Britain at the time.

From this humble beginning the Scout movement grew and at the first scout rally in 1909 over 11000 people attended including girls who insisted on a Girl Scout Association and so the Guide Movement was born.

The Baden Powell Outdoor Centre is located just below the monument and was opened in 2007. It includes a shop selling Scout memorabilia such as badges hats and t shirts.

As you reach the western end of the island the beaches become pebbly and less attractive than those on the south.The views of Poole docks don't add to the experience.

A Twitcher's Heaven

brownsea island birds

The north part of Brownsea island is leased to the Dorset Wildlife Trust and access can only be gained with a guide who conducts tours at 2pm during July and August.The area includes a large lagoon which supports migrating birds such as avocets,black tailed godwits and wildfowl.

Come early in the year for winter bird visitors and summer for breeding.

Whilst waiting for your ferry buy a Purbeck ice cream from the sweet shop enjoy the view across Poole harbour to the millionaire's houses in Sandbanks.

Brownsea Island is open 10am to 6pm from mid March to early November admission is £12.20 for a family of four.

The quickest ferry goes from Sandbanks next to the Studland ferry terminal.Look for the yellow kiosk,the fare is £4.50 return for one adult.For times cal + 44 1929 462383

Parking is a problem in Sandbanks,you can pay £8 for a 8 hour stay.Why not take the No 50 bus which leaves at 20 and 50 minutes past the hour from Bournemouth Station and takes 45 mins to get to Sandbanks.Going back the bus leaves from Sandbanks at 25 and 55 minutes past the hour. For more information from the National Trust go here...

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