Please note: the Humble Bee Café is closed until further notice due to staff shortages and illness. Apologies for any inconvenience caused.
Know before you go
Entry feeN/A - donations always welcome.
Parking informationMain car park at Kingcombe Centre. Small car park at northern entrance
Grazing animalsCattle with calves and bulls on site March to December. Sheep all year round.
Two circular marked trails. Otherwise Permissive Open Access. Two long distance trails cross the site - Jubilee Trail (Footpath) & Wessex Ridgeway (Bridleway).
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. An overview map and leaflet is 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 another pond by the visitor centre, with the River Hooke (ending at Poole Harbour) 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.
When to visit
Opening timesThe Nature reserve is open at all times. Information point and outside toilets at the nearby Kingcombe Centre are open 24/7. The Kingcombe Centre is open 10am - 4pm, 7 days a week. The Humble Bee Cafe is open 10-4pm Thursday - Sunday (currently closed - please see notice at top of page). Find out more about the Kingcombe Centre on the Visitor Centre page.
The Kingcombe Centre will be closed between 31 October 2021 and 31 January 2022. The surrounding nature reserve remains open all year round.
Best time to visitAnytime. Spring/summer for wildflowers & butterflies. Autumn for fungi and moths.
About the 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 working farm, grazed by cows, sheep and Exmoor ponies, 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.
The thick, traditionally managed hedgerows are home to dormice, as well as providing highways for other mammals and invertebrates. Farmland birds, like yellowhammer and linnet, make their homes amongst these hedges and scrub patches. Their call now a rarer sound in the intensively managed land beyond. The ancient trees drip with epiphytic lichens, mosses and ferns.
The River Hooke teems with invertebrates, like beautiful demoiselle, and brown trout weaves it way through the centre of the reserve. The rare great-crested newt inhabits the network of ponds.
The lowland grassland habitats across the reserve are incredibly diverse and nationally important. Chalk slopes bursting with spring cowslips, harebell and bee orchid. The valley bottom brings neutral meadows and rush pasture with southern marsh orchid, sneezewort and devil's bit scabious. As the land rises to the south the short turf of acid grassland with tormentil, lousewort and heath spotted orchid.
The impressive summer wildflowers in the haymeadows bring with them clouds of marbled whites, meadow browns and ringlets butterflies that dance amongst them. The reserve is nationally important for the wax cap fungi with 27 species present!
The Dorset Wildilfe Trust's Kingcombe Centre is at the heart of the nature reserve and is an ideal place to start exploring the surrounding nature reserve. Explore exhibitions and more information about the history of the nature reserve in the centre, and enjoy refreshments from the Humble Bee Cafe which is on-site.
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.