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Wildlife along the Wessex Trailway

A wide range of mammals and birds can be seen along the Wessex Ridgeway.

The Wessex Ridgeway follows a chalk ridge that forms a 'backbone' across Dorset. Its dominant steep-sided slopes, rounded hills and deep coombes have characterised the wildlife that lives here.

The Wessex Ridgeway falls within the South Wessex Downs Natural Area, which is internationally important for its chalk rivers and much of England's remaining chalk grassland.

As well as chalk downland the trail also passes over a mosaic of other habitats including woodland, arable fields, chalk streams and remnants of heath. From spring onwards these are awash with many colourful wildflowers including Pyramidal Orchid, Early Gentian, Lady's Bedstraw, Squinancywort, Cowslip, Wood Anemone, Dog Violet, Corn Marigold and Common Fumitory. During summer these are covered with scores of butterflies and other insects including Grizzled Skipper, Adonis Blue, Marbled White, Comma and Orange-tip butterflies as well as day flying burnet moths, glow worms, dragonflies and damselflies, Bright Orange Soldier Beetles and the Great Green Bush-cricket.

A wide range of mammals and birds can also been seen including Dormouse, Brown Hare, Roe and Fallow deer, Pipistrelle and Noctule bats, Grey Partridge, Skylark, Kestrel, flocks of Linnet and Goldfinch, woodpeckers and Tawny and Barn owls.

In autumn the woodland floors flourish with the unusual and interesting fruiting bodies of fungi. These often break through the dense, damp layer of fallen leaves and along with the ferns, mosses and lichens, glisten in the low autumn sun.

More information about the wildlife along the trail and the best places to see them is available in the 'Wildlife of the Wessex Ridgeway' (pdf, 531kb) (opens in a new window) leaflet, printed copies of the leaflet are available from local tourist information centres (TIC).

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