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Haven of Wild Life at Brownsea Island

Photo credit: National Trust
If you're feeling a bit depressed about the sudden onset of Autumn this should lift your spirits. A late September trip to Brownsea Island was a real highlight for us.
The journey over to Brownsea is just what's needed to get you in the mood.. instead of the usual battle through the traffic, you park the car in Poole and then jump on the nearest ferry to the island. There's the usual running documentary from someone keen to make some tips on the way over - needless to say I can't remember any of it but I'm sure some of the pirate facts will have stuck in the minds of the younger members of our party. I just closed my eyes and pretended I was in Greece (we were lucky - it was one of those Indian Summer September days). There was also quite a lot of Famous Five talk -  Brownsea was the inspiration for Enid Blyton's Whispering Island where the Famous Five evaded baddies to discover the smuggled loot.
Described by Bill Oddie as 'as the best place for seeing wildlife in Dorset', Brownsea Island is a haven for red squirrels. I have to confess to having a pet obsession, but the sight of one of these adorable bushy-tailed creatures munching on pine seeds should bring a smile to the most jaded of faces. Living in splendid isolation, free from those squirrelpox-spreading, food-nabbing greys, the reds of Brownsea have the run of the place and you'll start spotting them as soon as you set foot on the island. We got swept up in it all and joined a red squirrel walk. We then set off on our own trail around the island - the children racing off in different directions and appearing at our sides every once in a while armed with their latest find - pieces of pottery, pine cones, peacock feathers, deer and woodpecker-spottings - I could go on. There are beaches, a lagoon and endless woodland trails along the way. And because there are no cars on Brownsea it feels a world away from the daily grind.
At the end of that you'll be hungry. The more organised could pack a picnic and stop along the way - we made do with the National Trust Cafe which got rave reviews. Until a peacock made off with our ham sandwiches that is!
According to an article in the Guardian last week there are now 250 red squirrels on Brownsea. The best time to spot them is from now until the end of October, when they are down from the trees and collecting for the winter.
Oh, and while we're on the subject.. another pet obsession - oysters. You can buy Brownsea Island Oysters here, or head down to Mark Hix's Oyster and Fish House to eat them in style overlooking Lyme Regis.
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