Dorset Wildlife

Sun 14th - Fri 19th July 2019 - £875 (£250 deposit)

You’ll feel you have reached the heart of hidden, rural Dorset on this four-night short break. We stay in a stunning barn conversion amid 500 acres of ancient wildflower meadows and woodlands on one of Dorset Wildlife Trust’s reserves. We’ll discover the area’s small mammals, including bats, and help to preserve their habitat, while removing some destructive plants that have invaded recently.

Marvellous in-house cook

We will sample the best of Dorset food, venturing out to local restaurants as well as benefiting from a marvellous in-house cook. You will learn about small mammal behaviour and how to place devices that catch the animals so that we can make notes about each one before releasing it back into the wild. You will learn how to handle animals carefully and safely before letting them go and you will be taught surveying methods. We’ll put up camera traps and check the rivers for signs of otters and water voles, as well as using electronic detectors to survey and record bats in the evening and seeing what moths we have caught in our trap in the mornings. A wildlife highlight of the week is an evening in a secret badger and fox hide watching these amazing animals interacting and feeding undisturbed only feet away.

Satisfying and essential work

"I knew it would be interesting, but never imagined how much fun a Wild Days holiday would be!"

"I knew it would be interesting, but never imagined how much fun a Wild Days holiday would be!"

Our other task will be removing Himalayan balsam from wildflower meadows and woodlands close to the reserve. This pretty but damaging plant is growing out of control in some areas and stifling the local plant-life. We'll work as a group on this satisfying and essential project – there's Christine showing us how it's done!
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Magic moments…

Holding out your hand with a vole sitting on it in perfect calmness, just before it scurries away back to its home.

The sound of the field kettle boiling and the cake being cut ready for a morning break.

Laughing with new friends as you work together outside in the sunshine (or rain!)

Find out more detail about this holiday below.

Wild Days Conservation :: www.wilddaysconservation.orgWild Days Conservation works in partnership with wildlife organisations. We combine valuable research with practical conservation.Dorset Wildlife TrustThis holiday contributes to work by Dorset Wildlife Trust (DWT) to increase biodiversity on farm-land and nature reserves within the Dorset Rea of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). Our specific objective is the removal of  growth of the invasive species Himalayan balsam (Impatiens glandulifera). This pretty flowering annual is believed to have escaped from domestic gardens and by ingenious and highly effective means – it 'fires' its seeds from pressurised pods up to four metres - has colonised large areas along watercourses throughout the UK. As a non-native species, it has few natural predators and aggressively out-competes natives to form large mono-cultures – areas of only one species. Left unchecked, Himalayan balsam spreads quickly and has a significant impact on the overall biodiversity of the areas it invades.Removing the plant is relatively easy. It is large and fast growing, but brittle with very shallow roots and is easily pulled up by hand. As long as this is done before seeding (late July onwards) it can be stopped in its tracks quickly. It tends to grow around streams and rivers, and in this case in environmentally sensitive areas, which means that removal by hand is the only practical method.Valuable conservation workThis valuable, satisfying and sociable work can be carried out by anyone with a reasonable level of fitness – no special skills are required. It entails walking along beautiful wooded streams and wet areas where the plant proliferates and pulling up any we find.32bOur research activity will focus on gathering data for contribution to the National Mammal Atlas in conjunction with The Mammal Society. Somewhat surprisingly, no definitive national survey of mammals exists for the UK. Our work has provided baseline data for the first edition and continuing contributions to the national picture.We’ll be making use of a number of humane sampling techniques including live and camera trapping and footprint tunnels to document presence (or absence) of the UK’s small mammal species, such as water voles, wood mice and harvest mice. Data is recorded using paper forms and computers.Bats and mothsIn addition, we’ll sample night time moths using a light trap and this year will be developing a transect survey of bats present. As well venturing out in the evening to look and listen for bats using electronic detectors, we'll be making recordings of their echo-location calls for further analysis by DWT's ecologists later.These activities will take place throughout the holiday, with training given in identifying species and their indicators, and in the use of equipment. All our activities comply with recommended, legal and licensing standards for wildlife research.
Small mammal live trap trainingFIELD TRAININGAll field training in the necessary conservation and research skills and techniques will be given as part of the holiday and you do not need any special skills - everyone can take part and there are no age limits whatsoever. Ability to identify animals and indications of their presence, such as tracks will be taught as part of the holiday. You will also be shown how to survey, capture and release small mammals.SKILLS REQUIREDNone! You don't need to be an expert, or have special skills – this is an opportunity for everyone to get involved in high-value wildlife conservation and research.
Image: Dorset Wildlife TrustOur home for the week is Dorset Wildlife Trust's delightful Westgate Lodge – a beautiful barn conversion - nestled in the heart of the Kingcombe Meadows nature reserve and surrounded by wild woodland and rolling hills. The location is ideal for our work and perfect for early morning wildlife spotting and late-night stargazing expeditions.A comfortable room of your ownAccommodation is in comfortable individual rooms, twins/doubles available on request, with all facilities. There is a large communal sitting room and plenty of space to relax as a group, or in peace.
Image: Steve BondThe whole of the area is designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). Kingcombe is seven miles from the UNESCO World Heritage Jurassic Coast, famous for its impressive cliffs that regularly disgorge fossils of all sorts.Bridport nets and ropeBridport is our nearest town. Recently voted one of the best market towns in England, it's the home of the Bridport Prize for Literature and has a vibrant artistic scene. The town was built on net and rope-making, giving rise to the 'Bridport dagger' – the hangman's noose - and still providing nets for uses as diverse as World Cup football goals and restraining cargo in military planes. There's a good local museum which tells you more.The county town of Dorchester is well known as the heart of Thomas Hardy country, but the tower that overlooks the area is a monument to another Hardy – Admiral Nelson's friend. Dorchester was the venue for Judge Jeffreys' Bloody Assizes and the trial of the Tolpuddle Martyrs.Chesil BeachThe Fleet lagoon - an inland lake with extraordinary ecology - is home to the world's only managed colony of nesting mute swans. The Fleet is sheltered from the sea by Chesil Beach, a 12-mile, naturally occurring shingle-bank that stretches eastwards from near Bridport all the way to Portland. From there the coast heads along the 'isle' of Purbeck to Sandbanks and the world's largest natural harbour at Poole.To the west is Lyme Regis and the Undercliff towards Seaton. Fans of 'The French Lieutenant's Woman' can pose windswept at the end of the Cobb – the ancient harbour wall that's still protecting a small fishing fleet. Fossil hunting on the beach is our favourite activity here – usually followed by a cream tea in the Alexandra Hotel gardens.
32dWe're a bit obsessed with food at Wild Days – it's what we spend most of our time thinking about (apart from wildlife conservation, of course). Not only does it fuel our good work, but it's a great medium for supporting local people and economies and experiencing the areas where we work. We're always on the lookout for the best and most interesting places to eat and West Dorset is full of them.Kingcombe’s in-house chef specialises in home-cooked food made with locally sourced ingredients, much of which come directly from the gardens at Kingcombe. A feast here, in the middle of the reserve, sets us up for an evening exploring Dorset or discovering what else is out on the reserve at night.All meals includedWe'll also enjoy an evening at the nearby Three Horseshoes - a very special pub that's made it into the Michelin guide, and The Stable, famed for its range of real local ciders and a particularly West Dorset interpretation of the pizza! And a planned a visit to Dorset's Jurassic coast during the week, can only be completed with real fish and chips on the beach.We love our picnic lunches, prepared fresh each morning and, weather permitting, enjoyed al fresco in stunning scenery. Our locally roasted, freshly ground, fair-trade coffee is legendary. Where possible, it’s prepared on-site with gathered firewood and tastes fantastic after a morning in the field.
32eIt's not all hard work and research! During our time at Kingcombe we'll meet and hear from a range of local experts. These include:Nick Gray, Dorset Wildlife Trust's 'Pastures New Adviser'. This is an opportunity to learn more about the traditional meadow restoration project he works with and some of the farmer/landowners working to improve biodiversity on their meadows.Walk on the Jurassic CoastA walk in the company of the Jurassic Coast team will allow us a fantastic insight into this World Heritage Site and the challenges for its preservation and management.Add a guided night-time bat foray, and a morning marvelling at the beauty and variety of night-flying moths attracted to our light trap, and this holiday supplies an unforgettable insight into the wonder of wildlife and conservation in Britain.A highlight of the week will be an evening in a specially constructed badger and fox hide hidden away on a local farm - as dusk sets in the sight of badgers and fox cubs creeping out to feed undisturbed right under our noses is truly unforgettable.


You have two options. We can meet you at Dorchester South railway station. Or you can travel directly to the Kingcombe Centre in your own vehicle.
  1. Dorchester South railway station: 14.30, Sunday 14th July 2019. Meet at steps outside ticket office. Direct trains run regularly from London Waterloo, Southampton (inc. airport), Bournemouth etc. – see times here. We will travel to Kingcombe from here, a journey of approximately 30 minutes.
  2. Kingcombe Centre: 15.00, Sunday 14th July 2019. Find map here.
Departure is at midday on Friday 19th July, with return travel to Dorchester South railway station by 2pm if required.


You are responsible for satisfying all relevant UK entry and visa requirements. Wild Days is unable to assist you with this. Detailed information specific to your nationality or country of origin can be found here.


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Image: Steve Bond

Wood mouse

Image: Steve Bond

Image: Verity Lee