Know before you go
Parking informationSmall car park at entrance with space for three cars 20m further up the track.
Grazing animalsCattle grazing all year.
Two marked circular walks from the car park, two Bridleways, otherwise Permissive Open Access.
Off-road wheelchair access to first part of reserve via level, part gravelled tracks with bridle and field gates. Access to rest of reserve on uneven paths.
There is an information board at the inner entrance with a map of the site. From here a gravelled track leads through the first part of the reserve, branching off to take you along the railway line, or between the grassland blocks and then on to a forest track down through the wood-pasture. These tracks give way to unsurfaced paths after a time. Some additional paths run across the site with a bridleway (mostly unsurfaced) crossing from north-east to south-west. Download a map and leaflet here for the long and short trails.
The ground is rough and uneven away from the paths, and several ponds and wet areas are present on site. Cattle roam over large areas of the site all year and may be encountered at any time. Please keep your distance, and observe any signs. Adders and ticks may also be present. See our general Visitor Information page for more on adders, ticks, livestock and how to help us protect these special sites.
When to visit
Opening timesOpen at all times
Best time to visitSpring and early summer
About the reserve
Hidden away in the west Dorset countryside, this gem of a nature reserve supports an impressive list of rare and protected species amongst the intricate mosaic of unimproved wet and dry grassland, scrub, woodland and small copses.
A visit to Powerstock Common is rewarding at any time of year. In early spring the woodlands are alive with birdsong and sprinkled with a carpet of bluebell, wild daffodil, herb-Paris and early purple orchid. As spring moves into summer the grassy areas along the disused railway and open common come into their own, with a flourish of spotted orchids giving way to a range of uncommon wildflowers, from rock-rose and carline thistle on the shorter banks to meadow thistle and sneezewort in the rush pasture fields. At this time the warm, sheltered banks of the old railway dance with butterflies, as dragonflies dart and dash around the scattered ponds, and if your luck is in you may catch sight of the rare and beautiful marsh fritillary butterfly which thrives in the tussocky damp grasslands, rich in devil's-bit scabious. Moving into autumn the site comes alive with fruits and fungi, the former being of importance for the resident dormice, amongst other creatures, and the eerie sound of rutting deer, whilst a wintry stroll at the site may bring sightings of scampering hare, a snipe flushed from the rushy meadows and flocks of wintering thrushes.
Over recent years we have removed large areas of conifer plantation from the common and are now managing this area to return it to open wood-pasture. Along with the mix of habitat types the abundance of 'edges' where woodland, scrub and scattered trees meet open grassland are particularly important for foraging bats, with the site supporting several rare species. The presence of a network of ponds within the matrix of grassland and scrub also makes the site valuable for amphibians, with toad, frog and all three species of native newt breeding on site. The site also supports a population of a rare mud snail, four species of reptile and a long list of moths. Not to mention the rare and threatened lichens!
Situated about three miles west of Maiden Newton, the reserve entrance/parking area lies adjacent to a disused railway bridge on a minor road parallel to & about a mile west of the A356, connecting the B3163 with the A35.