15 of the most effective straightforward rural escapes from UK cities | Travel

These areas have been chosen with a number of standards in thoughts. They are all free to enter, all of them have good wildlife for at the very least a part of the 12 months, and are all inside an hour’s drive of a big city or metropolis. Many are off the crushed observe, or at the very least low profile, with out signposts or a web site, and that could be a deliberate alternative. One of the nice joys of Britain is its profusion of unheralded nooks and crannies. Many of those websites are nature reserves, lovingly preserved and sorted. They deserve extra recognition.

All the areas are good for wildlife, however they don’t all present sightings on a plate, nor do they essentially present services corresponding to cafés or loos. The greatest plan is to convey a picnic and loads of water so that you could roam wherever the flamboyant takes you.

This choice is taken from Wild and Free: Easy Escapes from City Life (AA Publishing, £14.99). To order a replica for £12.74 together with, UK p&p, go to the guardian bookshop or name 0330 333 6846

Formby Point, Merseyside

Travel time Southport 30 minutes, Liverpool 45 minutes
Lunch cease The Pheasant Inn, Hightown, Liverpool

Few components of England are blessed with such wildlife riches because the Sefton coast. Birders come right here for the waders on the seashore and uncommon seabirds; mammal-watchers come for the crimson squirrels; herpetologists are delighted with a possible hat-trick of goodies; botanists come for the dune-slack orchids and different treats. There are uncommon moths, ferns, and even a well-known liverwort. There are even very good fossils on the seashore.

Formby has two stations not removed from the seashore (Freshfield and Formby), so you may get right here simply by public transport. You can park without spending a dime in some components of city, too.

The most well-known wild residents of the world are the crimson squirrels, the southernmost inhabitants in mainland England. These animals stay within the pinewoods on the dunes, and the most effective place to see them is the Freshfield Squirrel Reserve. The squirrels are stunning and tame; you possibly can even purchase nuts to feed them from the warden’s workplace. They are at their smartest within the winter, when their ear tufts have simply regrown; in summer time, they will look distinctly scruffy.

The three cold-blooded stars of Formby are the natterjack toad, the sand lizard and the nice crested newt. The sand lizard and natterjack stay for many of the 12 months within the dunes, however whereas the sand lizard is energetic through the day, the toad comes out at night time. The greatest strategy to admire the latter is to come between April and July on a heat, damp night, and pay attention beside a breeding pool for his or her unusual wheezy croak, which may develop into fairly a refrain when many males are collectively.

Sheepleas, Surrey

Photograph: James Adler/Wildlife Trust

Travel time Guildford 20 minutes, London 50 minutes
Lunch cease The King William IV, West Horsley

The Surrey Hills space of the North Downs, simply south of London, is filled with nooks and crannies and untidy corners. One was even proclaimed by eminent scientists, in 1913, to be the “finest piece of botanical and entomological land within 30 miles of London”. If that was the case then, you possibly can think about how essential Sheepleas nature reserve is now, after many years of home constructing and land intensification within the surrounding space.

There is a stupendous cowslip meadow on the east facet of the reserve however that isn’t the one show of flowers, it seems that Sheepleas is one thing of a show-off location: the close by woodland provides a imply show of bluebells, and when all this spring unsubtlety fades a extra different riot of blooms takes over. The soil is chalky and so the calcareous favourites are right here, corresponding to marjoram, eyebright, milkwort, wild thyme, frequent rock-rose, yellow-wort and numerous orchids.

There is extra to Sheepleas than flowers. More than 30 species of butterflies have been recorded and there is a wonderful show of grasshoppers and crickets. Birds are plentiful and embrace marsh tit, bullfinch, nuthatch and treecreeper. Sheepleas can be a wonderful space through which to get lost. The reserve covers 270 acres of various habitats on steep, chalky and infrequently very muddy slopes. The scrub, woodland and fields have a community of paths between and round them, and lots of look fairly comparable. However, the world is served by three automotive parks (the one on Shere Road, a turn-off on the A246 by West Horsley, is the preferred) and there are additionally two waymarked nature trails, one a Woodland Trail and one a Grassland Trail, so it occurs much less usually than it used to. On the opposite hand, getting a bit lost could be a part of the enjoyable.

Lancaut, Monmouthshire and Gloucestershire

View north towards Lancaut over incised meander, gorge and river spit, River Wye, near Chepstow, Monmouthshire, Wales, UK

Photograph: Alamy

Travel time Bristol 30 minutes, Newport 30 minutes
Lunch cease The Riverside Wine Bar, Chepstow

On the final 20 miles of its journey right down to the Severn estuary, the River Wye meanders by way of a sequence of closely wooded limestone cliffs. One of its most dramatic swerves is across the Lancaut “peninsula” simply north of Chepstow, the place a westward after which an eastward flip has nearly created an island. This scenic spot is dominated by the river and the cliffs that tower over it, whereas a number of the greatest wildlife is within the woodlands. Just a number of miles from the mouth of the Severn, the Wye is tidal and at factors on the peninsula the transition from woodland to saltmarsh is so abrupt as to be coated in a number of paces, a state of affairs nearly distinctive in Britain.

Although it’s potential to strategy the peninsula by street (Lancaut Lane), it’s extra satisfying to stroll from Chepstow and observe the Lancaut Loop. Park within the bustling Welsh city, go throughout the bridge into England, observe Offa’s Dyke north, after which, at a green-painted mansion known as Pen Moel, ignore the trail proper and as a substitute go beneath a small wood bridge into Lancaut nature reserve. Within a mile or so, you might be in a distinct world – swallowed up beneath the cover of oak, discipline maple and yew.

Your eyes could be drawn to the bluebells in spring, and the violets and wooden anemones, however the stars are the shrubs. The scarce small-leaved lime grows right here, along with the wild service tree, however for sheer rarity worth the shrubs referred to as whitebeams make botanists go weak on the knees. Several species, together with the round-leaved whitebeam and the Symonds Yat whitebeam, happen within the Wye Valley and nowhere else within the world.

Having reached a clearing past the outdated quarry, the general public footpath goes previous the ruins of St James’s Church. It ascends in the direction of a farm, previous a bench the place there are views over the Wye. If you flip proper right here you possibly can observe Lancaut Lane previous the outdated fort and again to Offa’s Dyke, the place you retrace your steps. On the left of the lane, although is one other woodland, Ban-y-Gor Woods (nonetheless in England), additionally a nature reserve. A observe leads previous distinctive flora and there are beeches and yews, with small-leaved lime and whitebeams once more making up the understorey.

Old Sulehay, Northamptonshire

Old Sulehay forest in Northamptonshire, England, UK

Photograph: Alamy

Travel time Peterborough 20 minutes, Leicester 55 minutes
Lunch cease The White Hart, Ufford, Stamford

Fancy a visit to an historical woodland to search for oysters? That’s a ridiculous thought, proper? It would possibly sound prefer it, however Old Sulehay Forest in Northamptonshire, a great distance from the ocean, simply occurs to be a spot the place you would possibly discover seashells among the many bushes. They are fossils, naturally sufficient, from an oolitic quarry throughout the boundary of the forest.

Old Sulehay itself is what stays of a a lot bigger historical forest, Rockingham, which as soon as stretched from close by Wansford all the way in which to Kettering, 20 miles to the south-west. The present-day Old Sulehay is a nature reserve with a patchwork of woodland, outdated, overgrown quarries, grassland and wetland areas divided into 4 chunks.

There is Old Sulehay historical woodland itself, Stonepit Close quarry, a woodland/grassland known as Ring Haw, and a southern part, Sammock’s Hill, which is being restored as a limestone grassland and likewise has a small pool and reedbed. Although the positioning is just some miles to the west of Peterborough, not many individuals go to any of those chunks and you might be prone to have the reserve nearly to your self for the day.

The Old Sulehay nature reserve is a spot of contrasts, from deep woodland to open quarry, and with each clay and limestone soil. Yet one in every of its best contrasts is between the previous and the long run: historical woodland has been intact for hundreds of years, whereas the newly seeded grassland is a challenge for the long run.

Flanders Moss, Stirlingshire

Flanders Moss Nature Reserve Scotland

Photograph: Getty Images

Travel time Stirling 20 minutes, Glasgow 50 minutes
Lunch cease The Inn at Kippen, Kippen

Flanders Moss is a big raised lavatory within the valley of the Upper Forth, to the west of Stirling. If you don’t like bogs you possibly can cease studying … however you may be lacking out. This is a particular place, with an environment all its personal: peaceable and filled with wildlife. The website lies within the Carse of Stirling and as soon as was simply one in every of many bogs that coated a lot of this a part of Scotland. So many have been drained, lower for peat and in any other case destroyed that Flanders Moss is now one of many largest (2,125 acres) and most intact bogs in Britain.

Bogs have all kinds of fine attributes, and right here on Flanders Moss it’s straightforward to see them in a single brief go to. You entry this nationwide nature reserve (run by Scottish Natural Heritage) by turning off the B822 between Kippen and the village of Thornhill. A small street takes goes right down to a parking lot, a boardwalk and, just lately added, a powerful tower platform which supplies elevated views over the reserve.

The boardwalk takes you into the nitty-gritty of the lavatory. Here you possibly can admire the sphagnum mosses of many alternative species, all spongy and wondrously inexperienced or brown. Other vegetation exhibit their habitat allegiance: lavatory rosemary, lavatory myrtle and lavatory asphodel. Common cottongrass is in all places, and there are additionally a number of species of orchids, corresponding to lesser butterfly orchid. In summer time, the lavatory is a famend place for dragonflies and damselflies. It marks one of many southernmost stations in Britain for the northern emerald, a metallic darkish inexperienced dragonfly with inexperienced eyes.

The tower affords the prospect to see a number of the lavatory’s birds. Snipe, curlew and reed bunting breed throughout the moist areas, whereas each meadow and tree pipit are found in open and scrubby habitats respectively. The meadow pipit is the host for the cuckoo, which is frequent hereabouts. Another fascinating breeding fowl domestically is the osprey, which fishes within the Lake of Menteith to the west of the reserve.

Wyre Forest, Worcestershire

A wild male Mandarin (Aix galericulata) in the Wyre Forest, Worcestershire, England.

A wild male Mandarin (Aix galericulata) within the Wyre Forest. Photograph: Alamy

Travel time Kidderminster 20 minutes, Birmingham 45 minutes
Lunch cease The Mug House Inn & Angry Chef Restaurant, Bewdley

The Wyre Forest is most actually a spot in which you’ll lose your self. In all it covers 5,930 acres and encompasses many various kinds of woodland, in addition to outdated orchards and meadows. The forest lies on a plateau west of the River Severn, with such various geology that one a part of the wooden could have a very totally different ambiance to the remaining. For instance, on a lot of the plateau the soils are acidic, and oaks and birches intermix; nevertheless, on the limestone sections there are woods of ash and hazel, with a distinct floor flora.

Cutting by way of the plateau, roughly from west to east, is the attractive Dowles Brook and its valley, which is the richest a part of the entire space. This is the center of the forest and the place any customer ought to head as a precedence. The oaks on the valley overflow with birds and butterflies flit alongside the dappled shade subsequent to the stream.

Seckley Wood, on the north-eastern nook on the banks of the Severn, is one other excellent part. With a mix of outdated oak and birch, plus beeches and an adjoining cherry orchard, it’s notably good for birds, together with pied flycatchers, wooden warblers and hawfinches. From the highest there’s a terrific view of the river under and the ambiance is sublimely calm.

South Gower Cliffs, Glamorgan

Worm’s Head and Rhossili Bay beach aerial view Gower Peninsula Swansea County South Wales UK.

Worm’s Head, Gower Peninsula. Photograph: David Angel/Alamy

Travel time Swansea 40 minutes, Llanelli 45 minutes
Lunch cease King Arthur Hotel, Higher Green, Reynoldston

It’s a shoreline wealthy in all types of treasures: historical past and geology, bracing walks and among the finest seashores for miles round. The latter is true subsequent to the place you will need to head to start your exploration: the village of Rhossili. The lengthy sweep of golden sands will tempt you on arrival, particularly on a heat sunny day – or maybe a windswept one however for wildlife-watching functions you might be heading south-west.

Worm’s Head is an island solely accessible for about two and a half hours every low tide however for those who arrive on the proper time (tide instances can be found on the outdated coastal lookout constructing, now an info centre, a mile down the huge path), it makes for an thrilling problem. Descend to the seashore and embark on a scramble over the causeway. After 20 minutes you attain the Inner Head. It’s straightforward sufficient to observe the trail alongside and over Devil’s Bridge, what’s left of a collapsed sea cave, after which the land will get narrower and extra precipitous as you get in the direction of the Outer Head. You can’t climb to the highest within the birds’ breeding season (1 March to 31 August). Once on the finish of the Outer Head, you’re a mile out. Make positive you beat the tide again, because it is available in quick. People have been lower off and it’s a seven-hour await it to recede. Poet Dylan Thomas was as soon as stranded right here – and wrote in regards to the expertise.

There are many issues to see for those who don’t stroll out to Worm’s Head. Follow the coastal path in the direction of Port Eynon. There are a number of nature reserves alongside the way in which, corresponding to Deborah’s Hole, named after an inaccessible cave, which has vary of flowers on the limestone and breeding rock pipits and linnets.

Erewash Meadows, Nottinghamshire

Erewash Canal.

Erewash Canal. Photograph: Getty Images

Travel time Nottingham 30 minutes, Derby 30 minutes
Lunch cease The Nelson and Railway Inn, Kimberley

This place received’t be everyone’s cup of tea, with the A608 at its southern finish, a railway subsequent door and Nottingham simply to the east. However, two wildlife trusts have seen match to purchase components of Erewash Meadows, a flood plain that straddles their borders. And there’s a sure romance to a spot like this: Eastwood-born DH Lawrence set a number of of his novels within the Erewash valley, not least The Rainbow.

Erewash approximates to a wandering (meandering) marshy river and this can be a duly moist, slushy spot. The river has an inclination to flood quickly, which means that the positioning isn’t all the time satisfactory. Even when it’s, you will need to maintain to the paths across the reserve to make sure your ft stay dry.

There are three components of Erewash Meadows. Aldercar Flashes are on the south finish, close to Eastwood, whereas the center part encompasses Brinsley Meadows (there could be capturing close by) and the northern part runs alongside the disused Cromford canal. Aldercar Flashes are most favoured by birdwatchers; you possibly can entry them from Plumptre Road in Langley Mill and beneath the A610, or from Stoney Lane in Brinsley, or for an extended however extra salubrious stroll, park on Boat Lane at Stoneyford Lodge to the north.

In all, a exceptional complete of virtually 200 fowl species has been recorded right here, together with many rarities such because the spoonbill. It is a wonderful place for kingfishers, particularly alongside the Cromford Canal, and gray wagtails too. You may also spot a bit of owl, a fowl that likes willow bushes and low posts, whereas barn owls hunt over the lengthy, grassy meadows.

Dee Estuary, Cheshire

Hilbre Island from shore at Middle Eye, The Wirral, UK.

Hilbre Island from shore at Middle Eye, the Wirral. Photograph: Alamy

Travel time Birkenhead 30 minutes, Chester 40 minutes
Lunch cease Irby Mill, Greasby

The River Dee rises in Snowdonia, flows east to Chester and discharges into a large estuary, the left-hand cleft of the 2 on the coast between Wales and England; the opposite is the Mersey. As it disgorges into the Irish Sea it offers first-class wildlife habitat. In this space, there are two experiences you shouldn’t miss.

The first is a go to to offshore, uninhabited Hilbre Island and its sister islets Little Eye and Middle Eye, which is an journey involving strolling over the sands from West Kirby jetty at low tide. And it isn’t an journey to undertake flippantly. Although they’re solely a mile offshore, it takes an hour or so to achieve the primary island, Little Eye, and you will need to begin your stroll at the very least three hours earlier than excessive tide. The stroll will develop into downright harmful, into swimming pools and quicksands, for those who don’t observe the proper, well-marked route.

The three islands are of crimson sandstone and extra substantial than they seem from a distance. One of the buildings is used as a fowl observatory, notably within the autumn when rarities usually flip up on this uncovered shoreline – 270 species, an astonishing complete, have been recorded in all. On a wonderful day, the views are sometimes spectacular, throughout to the Lake District and even the Isle of Man.

For the second expertise, you will need to place your self at Parkgate Marsh, close to Neston down the coast, on a rising spring tide. On a number of days annually, relying on the climate, the water rises over the marsh a lot larger than traditional, and the spectacle is unbelievable. If this occurs in autumn or winter, 1000’s of wading birds are pushed near the Parkgate promenade and provides unbelievable views.

Ufton Fields, Warwickshire

Alder Pool at Ufton Fields Nature Reserve in winter, Warwickshire, England, UK

Photograph: Alamy

Travel time Coventry 35 minutes, Birmingham 50 minutes
Lunch cease The Stag at Offchurch

Here’s a recipe for the proper nature reserve. Take a patch of fallow floor, furrow it sufficient in order that there are banks and hollows, to which you add water. Leave to develop naturally, forming woodland of all differing kinds and phases. Allow in all types of wildlife. Place into 77 acres of in any other case unremarkable countryside inside attain of enormous cities and cities. And, hey presto, you have Ufton Fields, close to Leamington Spa.

This is how Ufton Fields got here into being, albeit not deliberately. In the 1950s this spot was quarried open solid for its limestone after which deserted. The works left the spoil in ridges, with deep furrows in between that collected rainwater and have become swimming pools and marshes. Years of neglect allowed the positioning to rewild itself, though some bushes have been planted. Now it’s rigorously managed by the Warwickshire Wildlife Trust.

Its major significance occurs to lie in its invertebrates. Thousands of individuals flock right here annually to see the nationally uncommon soldier fly Stratiomys furcata and two uncommon beetles. Of course, they don’t actually, however the website can be wonderful for 2 units of summery bugs: dragonflies and butterflies.

Those who are after wild flowers received’t be disillusioned both, as a result of there’s a terrific vary right here. As ever, orchids get a lot of the eye. There is a six-pack of species, particularly frequent noticed, early purple, bee, higher butterfly and man orchids, plus frequent twayblade. Of these, man orchid, with its weird flowers like hanging mannequins, shouldn’t be found wherever else in Warwickshire.

Castle Eden Dene, County Durham

Limestone waterfalls, Castle-Eden Dene, County Durham.

Photograph: Alamy

Travel time Sunderland 25 minutes, Hartlepool 25 minutes
Lunch cease The Royal George, Old Shotton, Peterlee

This place is nicknamed the Jungle of the North by locals: it’s a deep cleft taken over by rank and wealthy vegetation. In the narrower components the bushes are historical, gnarled and tangled, the soil is heavy and the edges are steep, clayey and unstable. There are hidden corners in all places, damp and shaded. Nothing a lot has modified on this deep ravine for 1000’s of years.

Overall the dene is sort of a big website, with open areas, even grassland and scrub, at every finish, and the narrowest, steepest part within the center. There is a customer centre on Oakerside Drive, Peterlee, close to the Oakerside entrance, the place you possibly can park and revel in a small pond and backyard, with a variety of flowers. There are different entrances dotted about; Gunner’s Pool Bridge spans a powerful gorge, and a sublime railway viaduct goes over the jap finish, close to the ocean.

Much of the woodland is ash and wych elm, with oaks, sycamores and a few areas of planted conifers. One its most uncommon options is the massive quantity of yew cowl; that is the furthest north this tree grows naturally in Britain. Many people are outdated and multi-branched, and a few are collapsing as the edges of the gorge periodically give means. They add a darkish, magical ambiance to the cleft. Under the deciduous bushes is a thick and in depth understorey of hazel, dogwood, spurge laurel, spindle, privet and guelder rose, making this place to check your shrub identification abilities.

Be warned: at instances the world acts out its wildness and landslips make the paths impassable. Take good boots, take excellent care and benefit from the jungle.

St Mary’s Island, Tyne & Wear

St Mary’s Lighthouse. Whitley Bay, Tyne and Wear, England. UK GB Europe

Photograph: Tim Moore/Alamy

Travel time Newcastle upon Tyne 30 minutes, Sunderland 40 minutes)
Lunch cease The Harbour View, Whitley Bay

The lighthouse on the highest of St Mary’s Island, close to Whitley Bay, is likely one of the most photographed spots on the north-east coast. What the quite a few guests to this pleasant spot don’t usually realise is simply how good it’s for wildlife, too. Take the well-known gray seals, as an example. They could be seen right here for many of the 12 months however they don’t breed or increase younger on the rocks of the island; they’re guests from the Farne Island colonies 40 miles to the north. So, in a way they’re simply as a lot daytrippers because the crowds of individuals.

Many different types of wildlife make use of the island and the close by St Mary’s wetland, a small adjoining space of freshwater swimming pools. In explicit, wading birds use the entire place for roosting and feeding, some in nationally essential numbers. Purple sandpiper, turnstone, sanderling, redshank and golden plover are all right here between July and March or April, and loaf on the rocks, the wetland or the clifftop grassland. Terns usually go to throughout fishing journeys from the Farne Islands or Coquet Island, and mixture of species is commonly found in mid to late summer time, together with quite a lot of Arctic terns and some of the uncommon roseate tern.

St Mary’s Island itself is a type of thrilling locations that’s lower off at excessive tide. Most of the time it’s simply reachable by foot throughout a causeway however twice a day it’s a actual island. Check the tide instances posted within the automotive park rigorously. If the island is accessible, it has services together with a small museum within the lighthouse (adults £three.30, household 2+2 ticket £7.70) and you’ll climb the 137 steps to the highest, from which the view is ravishing.

Kingley Vale, West Sussex

Uphill footpath to Kingley Vale Nature Reserve, West Sussex, England.

Footpath to Kingley Vale nature reserve. Photograph: Alamy

Travel time Portsmouth 30 minutes, Brighton 60 minutes
Lunch cease Horse and Groom, East Ashling

The yew forest right here isn’t simply price visiting for its rarity – wandering across the gnarled, weathered stumps and stooping, historical branches can be a singular expertise, unsettling and eerie, notably within the night. The yews listed here are identified to be at the very least 500 years outdated, and a few could also be as much as 2,000 years outdated. The largest have a girth of virtually 5 metres. They are native bushes and, within the autumn, produce crimson berries (technically referred to as arils) which can be eaten by thrushes and different birds, regardless of the seed coating being lethal toxic to us.

To get into the vale, you should use your ft. The nearest parking space is the nationwide nature reserve automotive park at West Stoke, some 15 minutes’ stroll from the doorway alongside an unremarkable footpath by way of farmland. The vale is quickly seen flanking the hill (Bow Hill) forward of you.

There is much more to see on this 395-acre nature reserve than simply the bushes, not least spectacular chalk flora, most noticeably the place the bushes open out on the east facet. The butterflies could be spectacular, too. Amazingly, no fewer than 39 species have been recorded. One of the highlights at Kingley Vale is the chalkhill blue, a species that’s frequent right here in July and August, however typically restricted on this nation to southern England.

If you go to the chalk downland and scrub on the backside of the hill, in the end you’ll find the hill itself irresistible, and really feel compelled to climb. It is worse than it seems, notably in the direction of the highest. However, it’s properly price it, and never only for the view. Kingley Vale encompasses 14 historical monuments, together with bronze age burial mounds and most of those are up right here.

Spurn Point, East Yorkshire

Old Spurn Point Low Light and the newer Lighthouse at Spurn Head, East Yorkshire, England UK.

Photograph: Alamy

Travel time Hull 55 minutes
Lunch cease The Camerton, Thorngumbald

The peninsula at Spurn shouldn’t be some of the scenic websites but it surely has an otherworldliness that’s engaging and unmistakable. It can be, arguably, the most effective website in Britain for birdwatching, at the very least on the mainland. Spurn is a magnet for rarities, and on day, particularly in autumn, the thrill on the peninsula is palpable.

Spurn Point is 32 miles south-east of Hull. Go east alongside the A1033 to Patrington, then south-east on the B1445 to Easington and onward to the minor street to Kilnsea. You can park right here or proceed to the Bluebell Café, the place there’s a automotive park and customer centre, or to Warren Cottage, the place the outdated fowl observatory continues to be primarily based. Spurn Point protrudes 3½ miles into the mouth of the Humber estuary, the large cleft on the east coast that drains one-fifth of England. The shoreline of shifting sands is dynamic and unpredictable. A extreme storm surge in 2013 washed away a bit of the peninsula, together with the entry street to the Point under the outdated observatory, and today this breach is roofed by excessive tides and the street is not used for visitors. When visiting, control the tide instances to be sure to aren’t lower off.

The space is basically open entry and you’ll stroll at your leisure. The mixture of habitat consists of the dunes, the North Sea and seashore (the uncommon little tern breeds close by), the saltmarsh on the landward facet, some chalk grassland, some recent water, and stands of bushes and bushes, the latter offering cowl for migratory birds. Grey seals and dolphins (even whales) are typically seen offshore.

Dancing Ledge, Dorset

Dancing Ledge near Swanage Dorset UK.

Photograph: Alamy

Travel time Poole 40 minutes, Bournemouth 50 minutes
Lunch cease The Square and Compass, Worth Matravers, close to Swanage

This brief stretch of the Jurassic Coast affords you nearly all the pieces: marvellous views over the Channel, plenty of wildlife, an adventurous scramble, an sudden swimming website, some tasty forage and a dose of historical past.

Park on the finish of Durnford Drove and from there it’s a fast trot throughout the fields to Spyway Barn, a listed constructing courting from the early 19th century, as soon as a hang-out of smugglers. Just past, the commanding view of the ocean is overwhelming, and each ravens and peregrines, along with the plentiful jackdaws, experience the breezes on the high of the steep slope. In spring and summer time, look down at your ft, as a result of the limestone soil hosts many uncommon vegetation such because the uncommon early spider orchid in profusion in April and early May. Look too in July for the Lulworth skipper, one in every of Britain’s rarest butterflies.

In truth, the following step requires you to maintain wanting down, since you’ll be dropping to what seems just like the cliff edge and the South West Coastal Path – it is rather steep and simple to lose your footing. Stonechats and linnets are plentiful on the slope, as are whitethroats in the summertime. Take time to admire the chalk grassland vegetation you go on the way in which, corresponding to salad burnet, yellow rattle and cowslip.

By the time you attain the underside of the slope, you might be doubtless to have the ability to make out small, bobbing shapes on the ocean. There is a seabird cliff right here, and for a lot of the 12 months it’s potential to observe shags and guillemots swimming, typically with razorbills amongst them. Dancing Ledge is most well-known, although, for its puffins, which could be seen right here from late March to July. There are solely a handful – nothing just like the numbers found in northern Britain – however these are the closest puffins to London. They are small and simple to overlook, however they’re usually simply offshore.

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