Landscape and Nature

Before the 20th century this area would have been a rich mix of downland, wet meadows, small fields, thick hedges, streams and marshes with much more wildlife than is present today. With drainage and fertilising the fields, and the afforesting of Okeford Hill most of the rarer wild flowers, butterflies and other wildlife that depended upon them have gone. However  the countryside around the village of Okeford Fitzpaine still has old hedges, patches of ancient woodland, fields and verges with some wild flowers, streams and relic  areas of chalk downland on the chalk spur known as the Merridge, where cowslips, orchids and scarce butterflies can still be found. Farmland and woodland birds abound and the summer is full of the sounds of blackcaps, chiff chaffs, robins, dunnocks, greenfinches, bullfinches, blackbirds, song thrushes and other birds. Buzzards, kestrels and sparrowhawks are frequent and now red kites are being seen too.

The thick hedges and old trees are great for bats including the scarce horseshoe bats that fly from their roost at Bryanston. Common butterflies like holly and common blue, orange tips, comma, peacock and small tortoiseshell are joined by scarcer white admirals and silver washed fritillary. Grass snakes and slow-worms are frequent in tall herbage and on Okeford Hill even the scarce harvest mouse can be found. There is much more to be discovered too!

Okeford Fitzpaine (still with many orchards) and Okeford Hill in 1945