A Batty Bird And A Beautiful Bird

If you’ve ever been to Brownsea Island, you’ll know exactly why Enid Blyton’s Famous Five got up to so much mischief here. Although it’s a well visited National Trust site, it’s very easy to find space to yourself on the island with lots of places to hide. In fact, the island can even boast a real life ‘baddie’ in the form of a Mrs Mary Bonham-Christie aka The Demon of Brownsea. This reclusive soul lived alone here in the mid 1900s and was reportedly so opposed to visitors that she would chase away any signs of human life. Unwitting fishermen straying into the mudflats were tipped out of their boats. She banished the scouts too after a fire erupted for which she laid the blame solidly at their feet.

All’s well, that ends well though – funnily enough it was the antics of this fiercely reclusive lady that allowed the island to flourish in its natural state and made way for the diversity of wildlife we enjoy today. What a girl.

The ferry pitches up to a rather pretty landing stage with Branksea castle as a backdrop and a fleet of very enthusiastic National Trust gents in short trousers manning the ropes. Good to see that Enid’s influence lives on.

Just as a note of interest – the castle is leased by the John Lewis Partnership and is used as a holiday destination for its employees. Nice.

Once off the ferry take note of where the majority of walkers head off and then point yourself in the opposite direction. I spent a whole afternoon on a warm, sunny day on the island and rarely bumped into anyone. Which I thought was pretty good considering the island is only 1.5 miles and 0.75 miles wide, with large conservation areas inaccessible to the public. I did have company on the second half of my walk but more of that later.

I’d decided to head for the shoreline, mainly because (as a previous visitor) I knew the tracks were fairly rough and unmade and would be a less popular choice for most.

Skirting around the green I came across the first must-do photo opportunity. A family enjoying a picnic were being hasselled by a very persistent peacock (yes, Brownsea has those in abundance) when the father suddenly lost it and furiously pursued the squawking peacock the entire length of the field. I couldn’t start snapping off with my camera. It would have been entirely inappropriate – the guy would have throttled me.

Every summer the Brownsea Open Air Theatre presents an evening of traditional Shakespeare here. This summer’s offering is Love’s Labour’s Lost and is described thus: “This early Shakespeare comedy is a tale of honour, oaths and love. Will the King and his noble companions keep their promise or will the visiting princess and her ladies distract them?” Well, we know the answer to that, don’t we girls?

I forged on ahead. I did stop briefly to read a sign though. Entitled “Heathland On Brownsea Island” it gave a bit of an overview of the wildlife there. “Life for some of those living here can be short, frenzied and furious – a race to mature, mate and breed, being seasonal and weather-dependent”. Sounds just like your average Saturday night in Bournemouth to me.

As you move around the island the stands of fire beaters serve as a constant reminder of the heightened fire risk that exists here.

In fact, only two months ago a fire destroyed a home on the nearby Green Island

It was 2pm by now (anyone who’s read my previous post will know that I lingered too long on Poole Quay before jumping onto the Brownsea ferry) and I sought somewhere peaceful to sit awhile. I found the perfect spot but choosing somewhere comfortable to settle down was quite a challenge – .the beaches around the island are strewn with broken pottery, the result of a failed attempt in the 1800s by a Mr William Waugh to manufacture high quality porcelain. He even built a village for the workers but when all plans turned to worms he legged it. To Spain. As you do.

It was as I rummaged around in my rucksack for the obligatory cake that I first saw him.

And he lurked for the rest of my stay.

Here he is looking suitably contrite after a serious attempt on my rucksack sandwiches:

And here he is feigning disinterest:

That bird gets everywhere! Can you see him…?

He did look a bit fazed when I dipped inland slightly (ha!) but I was confident he’d pitch up again. Let’s face it – who knew that word of my cake efforts had spread?

But…he was incredibly beautiful:

As I rounded the corner, the water ahead was lime green. Why folks? I know I can google myself to death but I’ll get the perfect answer if I ask my readers. As you can see it looks deceivingly like a path!

I shuffled along towards the ferry where the ever diligent volunteers were anxious that we jumped on to the correct boat. Ropes whipping around everywhere. And that persistent peacock had pitched up again. Though he did have the grace to appear suitably forlorn at my departure:


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  • http://twitter.com/WalksBritain Walks Around Britain

    Really enjoyed this Karen!  Thank you,

    • karenguttridge

      Thank you! I must go back and visit ‘my’ bird soon…I know it’s not good practice to feed the wildlife but believe me with the peacocks on Brownsea Island – you have no choice in the matter!

  • http://twitter.com/CumbrianRambler Beth Pipe

    Missed this one – glad I took a rummage on your FB page!  Great story and lovely pics.  No idea about the green path though I’m afraid!

    • karenguttridge

      I’m quite glad I’m not the only one with no clue to the lime green covering. Thought it would be common knowledge for all…except me! 

  • http://twitter.com/Goldenorfephoto phil

    great blog, brings back memories of sitting under a tree while a peacock sat in the tree above me  plucking its feathers out :) )   
    funnily i dont remember the castle where the boat pulled in!

    lime green on water looks like duck weed!

  • Hazmattmum

    Great blog. Really enjoyed reading it & the photos are stunning :)

    • karenguttridge

      Thank you! I do like to see the funny side of things and I’ve been practising like a demon with the camera!

  • http://twitter.com/hillplodder Matthew King

    Nice one, had plenty of childhood hols in the area, but only once actually been over to the island. I was  significantly scrawnier then. I’ve done extensive research and think Dorset must have more peacocks per square mile than any other county. 

    • karenguttridge

      The peacocks are running amok – they know they rule the roost on the island! They have devised a very ‘cunning plan’ to relieve the tourists of their sarnies!

  • http://twitter.com/chloegreene21 Chloe Greene

    Another cracking yarn Karen.
    I just love the way you bring together Enid Blyton, William Shakespeare and a beautiful peacock.
    And you always seem to have these thrilling close encounters with birds or animals or flora and fauna!
    Exquisite shots of the peacock too.
    I love your countryside.  :)

    • karenguttridge

      You’re right – I do seem to have more that my fair share of objectionable beasts! I think the wildlife spots me as a likely victim from a mile off… :-)

  • Marian Watson

    Lovely pics.   So it was peacocks, not rabbits, that I remember!

    • karenguttridge

      There were rabbits too (and of course the gorgeous red squirrels in the autumn) but the peacocks took  centre stage on this visit! :-)

  • http://twitter.com/PeakRambler Mike Beaumont

    Lovely read and super photos.

    BTW, Brownsea Island was the location for the first ever Scout camp, held by Sir Robert Baden Powell back in August 1907!

    • karenguttridge

      Thank you :-) There were plaques and a statue of Baden Powell but I was getting a bit carried away taking too many pictures!

  • http://www.webtogs.com Gareth

    Lush stuff mate! One to do on our jaunts here in the South West I think, I love your writing style, it always brings a smile to my face.