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Hengistbury Head Local Nature Reserve

The Isle of Wight as viewed from the top of Hengistbury Head


The Site

Hengistbury Head is a headland jutting out into the English Channel. The 162 hectare site incorporates an excellent variety of habitats including woodland, meadows, heathland, scrub, sand dunes, beach, estuary, saltmarsh and more. The site also incorporates the extensive meadows of Wick Fields. There are superb views from the top of the Head towards the Isle of Wight, Bournemouth, Sandbanks and the Purbecks, and inland towards the New Forest, St. Catherine’s Hill, and even Horton Tower on a clear day.

Hengistbury Head is extremely important for its flora and fauna  - over 500 plant species have been recorded including a number that are scarce; over 300 species of birds, including those present all year round, breeding birds, winter visitors, and birds that occur on migration during spring and autumn; and a superb variety of insects including moths, butterflies, dragonflies, damselflies, and beetles. The site is also internationally important because of its coastal geology, and its Stone Age and Iron Age archaeology.

 Galloways on the saltmarsh at Hengistbury Head

For a number of years, the site has been grazed by Galloway cattle, and these have been joined in recent years by Belted Galloways, Shetland cattle and British Whites. These animals carry out invaluable habitat management and improvement through the actions and results of their grazing. There is also a successful programme of breeding underway with the Shetland cattle. These animals are part of the Council's borough-wide grazing management| programme.  


Hengistbury Head Visitor Centre

Hengistbury Head Visitor Centre is open 10-4pm daily (except Christmas Day) in the winter and 10-5pm in the summer, and is free to visit.

The old thatched barn has been converted to house displays of the internationally important archaeology, geology and ecology found at this unique Nature Reserve.

The programme of exhibitions and events has been designed to raise awareness and understanding of this fascinating place.  Hengistbury Head is not only a Nature Reserve, but an Ancient Monument and a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) – and ranks as one of the most important SSSI sites in England.

The shop is stocked with a range of unique and stylish gifts, carefully chosen to reflect the Nature Reserve and the local area - with something for all ages and tastes.

Go to| for news and events.


Site designations

Hengistbury Head has a number of conservation designations, pertaining to the whole site, or parts of the site. These are Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), Scheduled Ancient Monument, Local Nature Reserve, Special Area of Conservation (SAC), Special Protection Area (SPA), Environmentally Sensitive Area (ESA), Site of Nature Conservation Interest (SNCI) and also Green Belt. The comprehensive management plan| contains a large amount of information about the site, its management and its wildlife.


Location and Access

Hengistbury Head is situated at the extreme eastern end of the Borough of Bournemouth, just along the coast from Southbourne, with Christchurch Harbour immediately to the north. Access by road is along the Broadway, and there is parking at Solent Meads car park, the Solent Meads golf course car park, and the main Hengistbury Head car park, situated near the Hiker Café and toilet block. The main tarmac road through the site, which goes all the way down to Mudeford spit, is suitable for wheelchair access, and there are other hard surface footpaths on the site suitable for wheelchairs.


Wick Fields

This large area consists of meadows, hedgerows and areas where trees have been planted. Some of the meadows are wet  -  those fields closest to Christchurch Priory. There is a hard surface lane called Roebury Lane that has the look and feel of a 'country lane', which runs along the southern boundary of the fields. The area is quite different Hengistbury Head itself, and is well worth a visit, particularly for its bird life, including greenfinches, song thrushes, pheasants, whitethroats, chiffchaffs and more. There are a number of hard surface footpaths within the area, and these are suitable for wheelchair users.

Wick Fields can be accessed from Solent Meads golf course car park, from an access point adjacent to the entrance to the Education and Field Centre, and from the riverside path from Riverlands. Roebury Lane can be accessed from adjacent to the Education Centre entrance, and from near the Solent Meads golf course shop.


Useful Information

The Land Train| runs every day of the year, except Christmas Day, and runs from the Hiker Café down to the Beach Café on Mudeford Spit. The Christchurch Harbour Ornithological Group| (CHOG) records birds throughout the year, and carries out regular bird ringing. The group has a wealth of information about the birds of Hengistbury Head. The Hengistbury Head Supporters Group is a local residents' group that works in partnership with Bournemouth Borough Council. They assist in the management of the site by participating in practical conservation tasks and promoting Hengistbury Head to members of the public. Look out for the regular programme of guided walks| that take place during the year, which range from bird watching to stargazing.

Check the location of this site on the Parks and Countryside map|.

Related Information


Postal Address Bournemouth Parks,
Queens Park Pavilion,
Queens Park West Drive,
Telephone 01202 451629
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