Step back in time at this traditional working farm complete with flower rich grassland, ancient hedgerows, rough pasture and wet woodlands. The hedgerows, fields and hay meadows are almost untouched by artificial fertilisers and pesticides. As a result they are home to a huge array of wildlife, some common and easy to see, others rare elsewhere in the UK. At the heart of the nature reserve, lies The Kingcombe Centre - find out more information about the centre on our Visitor Centre page.

Location

Kingcombe Meadows
Toller Porcorum
Dorchester
Dorset
DT2 0EQ

OS Map Reference

SY5542599059
A static map of Kingcombe Meadows

Know before you go

Size
180 hectares

Entry fee

N/A - donations always welcome.

Parking information

Main car park at Kingcombe Centre. Small car park at northern entrance

Bicycle parking

Yes

Grazing animals

Cattle with calves and bulls on site March to December. Sheep all year round.

Walking trails

Two circular marked trails. Otherwise Permissive Open Access. Two long distance trails cross the site - Jubilee Trail (Footpath) & Wessex Ridgeway (Bridleway).

Please click here for more information and guidance about dogs on DWT nature reserves.

Access

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.

Dogs

On a lead
Please remove any dog mess or litter from site and keep dogs on a short lead. See above for more information about dogs on nature reserves.

Facilities

Visitor centre
Toilets
Cafe/refreshments
Picnic area
Accessible toilet
Baby changing facilities
Wifi
Disabled parking

When to visit

Opening times

The 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. Find out more about the Kingcombe Centre on the Visitor Centre page.

Best time to visit

Anytime. 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. 

Find out more about the Centre here.

Useful Information

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.

Environmental designation

SAC SSSI
Site of Nature Conservation Importance (SNCI)
Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)
Kingcombe Meadows Nature Reserve Map

Kingcombe Meadows Nature Reserve Map

Find out more about courses at The Kingcombe Centre

The Kingcombe Centre by Debbie Billen