Situated to the east of Wareham, Swineham and Bestwall offers a diverse suite of habitats including reedbed, floodplain, river bank, woodland and gravel pits all combining to support a wide range of birds. A lengthy public footpath runs around the entire site, and can be accessed only a few minutes walk from the town centre! If travelling by car, roadside parking is available along Bestwall Road, but don’t drive or park beyond the entrance of Wareham Rugby Club as this becomes a private road thereafter.
A walk along the edge of the River Frome in spring is a sheer delight as Cetti’s, Reed and Sedge Warblers all announce their presence with their loud songs whilst Kingfishers dash by and hirundines swoop low over the gravel pits and floodplains. In early spring and winter Bittern may frequent the reedbeds around the main gravel pit at Swineham and viewing from the eastern end at dusk from January to March could reward the observer with a sighting. Marsh Harrier can be watched from the end of the footpath at the gravel pits along with Bearded Tit in the winter.
The main gravel pit attracts overwintering wildfowl such as Gadwall, Shoveler and Tufted Duck. In spring, passage waders such as Ruff, Little Ringed Plover, Black-tailed Godwit and Common Sandpiper all feed along the water meadows. A visit at any time of year will reward you with a set of new experiences not easily replicated elsewhere in the harbour.
There are no facilities around the Swineham and Bestwall river walks and footpaths are not suitable for cycling or wheelchairs. During the winter the footpaths can become exceptionally muddy so wellies are advisable. The footpaths are managed and maintained by Dorset County Council and look out for wooden signage posts directing walkers.
Birds of Poole Harbour
Is a charity completely dedicated educating people on the stunning variety of bird life in one of the country’s most picturesque locations, helping you make the most of this truly breathtaking natural harbour. They see their role as the link to raising the profile of bird conservation, observation and education in and around the Poole Harbour area through harbour-wide partnership working, high standards of people engagement work and continuous monitoring of the harbour and its bird populations. See the Birds of Poole Harbour website for more details.