South West News

New Natural Play Area at Brownsea Island

Following a winter of conservation work and improvements, Brownsea Island is once again open to visitors during weekends in February.

For the first time ever the National Trust-owned island will also open throughout February half term, with a celebration of Scouting and Guiding to coincide with World Thinking Day and Founder’s Day.

Brownsea’s new natural play area will also be unveiled in the woodland near the centre of the island. The play area is the first part of a series of ongoing improvements, which help bring to life the natural beauty, rich history and sense of adventure which the island has become known for.

Situated in Poole Harbour, Brownsea is managed in partnership with Dorset Wildlife Trust and is usually open for day visitors from mid-March to November. However, the winter weekend offer allows people to visit in February and early March and spot the first signs of spring and enjoy a winter sunset.

‘It’s such a special time of year,’ said Visitor Experience and Volunteering Manager Olivia Gruitt, ‘The island is a hive of activity with the last of the over-wintering birds feeding on the lagoon, and red squirrels starting to venture out again – digging up their winter stores. We're really keen to share all this activity with more people, which is why we are increasing the opportunity for people to visit over winter.

‘We decided to also open for half term week this year as it coincided with the Scouts’ Founder’s Day and the Guides’ World Thinking Day. As the birthplace of the Scouting and Guiding movements, we wanted to mark the occasion and celebrate this heritage with the rest of our visitors.’

Young explorers can collect a Scouting skills booklet from the tents which will be set up on Church Field and try their hand at some outdoor activities, testing out their tracking and observation skills. There will be activities to help visitors learn a bit more about Scouting life, including dressing up, and a chance for visitors to share their Scouting and Guiding memories. There will also be marshmallow toasting over the campfire at the Outdoor Centre between 12noon and 2pm during half-term weekends.

The half term opening also gives children the chance to be the first to try out the new natural play area. The woodland playground replaces the old natural play area in a new location to help with regeneration of the land. It includes a range of play equipment made from natural resources and is designed so that children can try their hand at some of the balancing, climbing and jumping that the island’s resident red squirrels can often be seen doing. It includes balancing beams, see-saws, climbing frames, obstacle courses and den-building.

Olivia added: ‘We’re really excited to be able to share the new natural play area with visitors for the first time. We’re inviting children to swing and soar like a squirrel – get outdoors and have a real adventure in the woods. The play area is just one of a whole series of improvements we have planned for Brownsea Island in 2020. There’s never been a better time to visit!’

Winter weekend opening is from Saturday 1 February – Sunday 8 March. Half term opening is 17 – 21 February.

Winter weekend access to Brownsea Island is by ferry:

The National Trust boat departs Sandbanks Jetty at 10am and then every hour on the hour.
Brownsea Island Ferries depart Poole Quay at 10:30am and then every hour at half past the hour
Last ferry off the island is 4pm.
Return boat fares start at £7.00 from Sandbanks and £12 from Poole.
Entry to the island is £7.90 for adults and £3.95 for children, National Trust members go free.
The Villano Café and Engine Gift shop will be open as normal from 10am and close at 4pm.

More information is available at