Wareham Forest

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Wareham Forest
Map showing the location of Wareham Forest
Map showing the location of Wareham Forest
Location Dorset, England
OS grid SY900900
Coordinates 50°43′05″N 2°09′58″W / 50.718°N 2.166°W / 50.718; -2.166Coordinates: 50°43′05″N 2°09′58″W / 50.718°N 2.166°W / 50.718; -2.166

Wareham Forest is an area in Dorset, England, consisting of open heathland, including Decoy Heath and Gore Heath, and plantations of conifers such as Morden Heath and Bloxworth Heath. The site is overseen by the Forestry Commission for conservation and recreation. Situated next to the A35 road between Dorchester and Poole; the forest provides a home for sika deer, the Dartford warbler and a population of sand lizards.


Wareham Forest featured in the American magazine Life on 20 October 1947.[1] The article describes a fire that raged for four days across Wareham Heath in the summer of that year. The fire severed the road from Wareham to Bere Regis and exploded ammunition left behind from Second World War troop manoeuvres.[1] The photograph accompanying the Life piece shows fire-fighters trying to counteract the blaze, which saw flames leap to over 150 feet in height.[1] Thanks to these efforts, a majority of the forest was saved.[1] A 55-acre tourist park and campsite now makes up part of Wareham Forest.[2] In 2012, a married couple walking their dog over the heath had to be rescued by the Dorset Fire and Rescue Service, after they became stuck in a freezing swamp.[3]


A track that passes through the site comprises part of the 'Wareham Forest Way', a walk that leads from Wareham to Sturminster Marshall.[4] There is also a route for cyclists called the Sika Cycle Trail.[5] Situated to the east of the forest is Morden Bog National Nature Reserve.[6] Calluna (or heather) and grasses such as Molinia caerulea (or purple moor grass) grow readily at Wareham Forest, give grazing fodder to a population of sika.[7] The nationally scarce Dartford warbler and the nightjar has been observed around here, and sand lizards may also be spotted.[6] The iconic fly agaric (Amanita muscaria), hallucinogenic toadstool, has been recorded within the forest.[8] In 2006 the Journal of Zoology published the results of a nine-year study that looked into the breeding frequency of the site's smooth snakes (Coronella austriaca).[9]

In fiction[edit]

The forest provides a backdrop for scenes within R. Hyslop's Wolf's-Head novel, set in the time of Æthelwulf of Wessex.[10]


  1. ^ a b c d Inc, Time (20 October 1947). "LIFE". Life: 44. Retrieved 8 April 2013. 
  2. ^ Tony and Sarah Birch. "Wareham Forest Tourist Park". Retrieved 9 April 2013. 
  3. ^ Durkin, Jim (31 January 2012). "Rescue drama after couple stuck in mud in Wareham Forest". Bournemouth Echo. Retrieved 9 April 2013. 
  4. ^ Discover Purbeck Information Centre (23 May 2012). "Wareham Forest Way". dorsetforyou.com. Retrieved 9 April 2013. 
  5. ^ Forestry Commission. "Sika Cycle Trail". Retrieved 9 April 2013. 
  6. ^ a b Purbeck District Council. "Wareham Forest Way". Retrieved 9 April 2013. 
  7. ^ Putman, Rory (1986). Grazing in Temperate Ecosystems: Large Herbivores and the Ecology of the New Forest. p. 123. ISBN 070994036X. 
  8. ^ Peter Orchard. "Wareham Forest (Gore Heath)". The Nature of Dorset. Retrieved 9 April 2013. 
  9. ^ Reading, C. J. (2004). "The influence of body condition and prey availability on female breeding success in the smooth snake (Coronella austriaca Laurenti)". Journal of Zoology. 264 (1): 61–67. doi:10.1017/S0952836904005515. 
  10. ^ Hyslop, R. (1986). Wolf's-Head. p. 116. ISBN 0955871808.