The Kingcombe Visitor Centre is open every day from 10am - 4pm with a self-service café available during those times. Although the centre is closed from November to March, the nature reserve, toilets and car park are open all year round.
Know before you go
When to visit
Opening timesThe Kingcombe Meadows nature reserve is open at all times. The car park, information point and outside toilets at the nearby Kingcombe Visitor Centre are also open 24/7 all year round.
The Kingcombe Visitor Centre is open 10am - 4pm, 7 days a week during the summer months. The visitor centre and café opening days and times can vary from October to March so please check the website before your visit.
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 and 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 Kingcombe Visitor Centre is at the heart of the nature reserve and is an ideal place to start exploring the surrounding nature reserve.
From Dorchester take the A37 to Yeovil. Just after the village of Grimstone turn left onto A356. Continue through Maiden Newton and turn left at the top of the hill signosted to Toller Porcorum. Turn right in the village signposted to Lower Kingcombe. Travel 1 mile and then look for the Kingcombe Visitors Centre sign on right. Map reference for main carpark is SY554990.