Escape the mainland and hop on a ferry to Brownsea Island off the Dorset coast to discover the island’s range of wildlife and learn more about its fascinating history.
A peacock sitting on the Boy Scout Memorial on Brownsea Island. ©NTPL/Joe Cornish
This idyllic island located in Poole Harbour has a wealth of history that belies its size and is the perfect location to spend a sun-soaked summer’s day whether it’s spent on the island’s soft sands or under the dappled shade of its woodland.
Deer on Brownsea Island, Dorset. ©NTPL/John Millar
However, life on the island hasn’t always been quite so idyllic with Brownsea being used as a military stronghold when the island was under the control of Henry VIII who recognised its important strategic location for guarding the thriving port of Poole. It was during this time that the first Brownsea Castle was built on the island with the people of Poole being ordered to maintain a permanent garrison at the fort.
Red squirrel on Brownsea Island, Dorset. ©National Trust Images/John Millar
By the 19th century Brownsea Island also became a strategic military post against the threat of attack by Napoleon, while defences were further strengthened during the Victorian era to protect England’s south coast trade from smugglers.
During the Second World War the island was once again used to defend the nearby harbour with flares being lit on its western end to draw German bombers away from the mainland.
The island is now under the care of the National Trust who took over the running of the site after the death of Mrs Mary Bonham-Christie in 1961. Mrs Bonham-Christie had lived a reclusive life on Brownsea since buying the island in 1927 and helped set it on its way to becoming the thriving nature reserve it is today. Since the National Trust took over the running of the island it has become a hugely popular visitor attraction with visitors flocking to its secluded shores to admire the scenic surroundings and discover more about the island’s history and hidden gems.
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