Kingcombe Meadows Nature Reserve
Escape to the peace and tranquility of Kingcombe Meadows and step back to a time when all farms teemed with wildlife.
The nature reserve is managed as a traditional working farm, grazed by cows & sheep, without the use of pesticides, artificial fertilisers and other modern agricultural practices. The result is a patchwork of fields of unimproved flower-rich grassland, broken up by thick hedges, streams, ponds, ancient green lanes & wooded areas spreading up the valley either side of the River Hooke. This mosaic of habitats supports a wide range of wildlife; from the dormice making their homes amongst the rotationally managed hedgerows and small woods, to the dippers patrolling up and down the river; the rare great-crested newt inhabiting the network of ponds to the orchids scattered through the grazed rush pastures; and from the impressive display of summer wildflowers in the haymeadows to the clouds of marbled white, meadow brown and ringlet butterflies that dance amongst them. The reserve is also particularly notable for the wax cap fungi found in areas of shorter acidic and calcareous grasslands, and for its ancient hedgerow trees dripping with lichens and mosses.
The Dorset Wildilfe Trust's Kingcombe Centre also operates from the reserve. The Centre hosts a range of events, courses and workshops as well as the Kingcombe Cafe (open weekends from 14th Feb - end Nov and school holidays). See the Kingcombe Centre website for further information and the full programme of activities.
From Dorchester take the A37 to Yeovil. Just after the village of Grimstone turn left on A356. Continue past Maiden Newton & turn left at the top of the hill to Toller Porcorum. Turn right in the village signposted to Lower Kingcombe. Travel 1 mile, look for Kingcombe Visitors Centre sign on right. Map reference for main carpark SY554990.
Access and safety
Access to the meadows is via field, bridle or kissing gates. There are some regularly walked but unsurfaced tracks through the meadows, with visitors also free to make their own way between the fields, however the ground may be rough and even in places and can be very wet in parts. There are several marked trails for which leaflets are available at the Kingcombe Centre Information Point, or the centre itself when this is open. An overview map and leaflet is also available to download here. Permissive Open Access over much of the farm but please observe no entry signs around the farm itself, and be aware that leaving the main waymarked paths may involve crossing stiles or ditches.
There are several small ponds scattered across the site and a larger pond by the visitor centre, with a small river running through the central part of the site and alongside the Kingcombe Centre. There may be cows with calves and bulls on site from spring through to autumn - keep your distance and observe any signs. Please take precautions against ticks. See our general Visitor Information page for more advice about livestock and ticks.
Species and habitats
Grassland, hedgerows, woodland, green lanes, ponds, stream.
Common knapweed, oxeye daisy, lady’s mantle, corky-fruited water-dropwort, devil’s-bit scabious, meadow thistle, early-purple orchid, heath spotted-orchid, moschatel, bryophytes, marsh fritillary, marbled white, silver-washed fritillary, dipper, kingfisher, dormouse.
Nearby nature reserves
Nature reserve map
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