Throughout Dorset you will find an array of woodlands and forests such as the well-known Puddletown Forest and Thorncombe Woods, but also small plantations and copses that are all wonderful spots for dog walking, cycling, running or peaceful, easy walks. With their mixture of plants and flora, especially during the spring months, these beautiful woodland areas are a place of particular interest for nature lovers. Drink in the spectacular views that can be viewed from the higher spots, and keep an eye out for wild deer and a whole host of critters.
Here’s the low-down on the best woodlands and forests in Dorset, but first, do you need somewhere to stay?
Over 300 hectares in size, Puddletown Forest near Dorchester, is a large area of woodland with a mixture of conifers and other plants. Paths are well marked (also good when everywhere else is wet and muddy) with flowers often growing around them. Some patches of heathland remain, and there are good views across to Purbeck from higher areas.
- East walking routes for all abilities
- Climb Green Hill or Beacon Hill for more something more challenging
- Miles of bridleways, natural tracks and downhill jumps for mountain bikers
- Visit the National Trust’s Hardy’s Cottage
Good to know:
There aren't any facilities available in the woods, but a seasonal cafe and toilets may be available at Hardy's Cottage.
Adjacent to Puddletown Forest, Thorncombe Woods is a 26-hectare area of designated ancient woodland and a site of nature conservation interest. Rich in ground flora during the spring months, Thorncombe is a mixture of habitat with a large area of broad-leaved trees and a little conifer plantation on an underlying foundation of heathland. This magical mixture of woodland and heath leads to Black Heath, an area in restoration with its own herd of Dartmoor ponies.
- Pass by Rushy Pond, a haven for wildlife and known for its mention in Thomas Hardy's works.
- Visit Hardy’s cottage and set off on the ‘Walking Hardy’s Landscape’ trail through the wood.
- Enjoy the wonderful, open countryside views surrounding the forest from Duddle Heath.
- Walk the well-preserved Roman road runs through the area, and is listed as a Scheduled Ancient Monument.
Good to know:
There are no facilities available in Thornecombe Woods, but the seasonal café and toilets may be open at the National Trust's Hardy's Cottage.
Adjacent to Morden Bog National Nature Reserves, Wareham Forest offers 14-square miles of woodland and heaths, rich in wildlife and fauna. There are lots of areas to explore within the Forest, and several waymarked routes criss-cross the forest floor, welcoming cyclists, walkers and horse riders. Pack a picnic and relax in the picnic areas provided in the forest.
- Explore the lesser-known scenery of north Purbeck and East Dorset along the Wareham Forest Way from Wareham to Sturminster Marshall.
- Hire a bike from Dream Adventures in the Sika Trail car park, Bere Road, Cold Harbour.
- Keep an eye out for wildlife crossing your path, including Sika Deer and Sand lizards.
- There are several walking trails in Wareham forest.
Good to know:
There are no facilities available in the forest, but you will find coffee and ice cream at the Dream Adventures pop up café in the Sika Trail car park. Horse riders require permits from the Forestry Commission.
Close to the border with Hampshire on the edge of the New Forest Nationa Park, Moors Valley County Park is a wonderful family day out. In addition to plenty of walking and cycling trails, the 1000-acre forest offers all kinds of fun activities to keep children and their families entertained – and informed! Keep your eyes peeled for beautiful forest flowers and wild animals too - and enjoy the many beautiful picnic spots.
- The thrill of the Go Ape Tree Top Challenge!
- The ‘play trail’ complete with unique wooden play structures.
- Bike hire and plenty of trails for different abilities
- A schedule of special events for families, walkers and cyclists
Good to know:
Moors Valley Country Park is well equipped with a restaurant and Visitor Centre, and it offers a range of accessible facilities including wheelchair, mobility scooter and wheelchair bikes.
Other woodlands and forests in Dorset:
- Ferndown Forest – A large woodland plantation located to the north of Bournemouth.
- Marshwood Vale – A stunning area of countryside in West Dorset, strewn with small villages, rural lanes and ancient woodlands.
- Ramsdown Plantation – A small plantation spread around a hill, with a beautiful viewpoint
- Ashmore Wood – A beautiful woodland where spring flowers flourish and autumn colours glow.
- Hethfelton Wood – 5 miles from Wareham, this native broadleaf wood is undergoing butterfly conservation efforts.
- Hurn Forest – A pleasant woodland with miles of tracks, heathland and ponds to explore
- Blandford Forest – A handful of scattered woodlands located within a 1km radius of Winterbourne Strickland.
In Dorset’s forests and woodlands, keep your eye out for…
- grass snakes
- palmate newts
- pond skaters
- song thrushes
- lesser spotted woodpeckers
Stay in a Dorset cottage
If you are looking for a holiday on the Jurassic Coast, have a browse our excellent range of self-catering holiday homes and cottages in Dorset. From romantic cottages for a weekend escape to large properties for a family holiday, we have a great selection of cottages in Dorset for your next break.
Looking for more wonderful woodland walks and outdoor adventures in Dorset? Check out our guides: