Our Dorset Wildlife Garden

Experience nature up close in our rural garden

Pheasants at the door. Deer ambling through the car park. Owls calling in the dark. These are just some of the regular occurrences that our guests enjoy while they’re with us.

For hundreds of years people farmed here, deep in the Dorset countryside and miles from the nearest town.

Both Dorchester and Weymouth are relatively close, but we’re separated from them by miles of open countryside. They are both to the west of us, while to the east there’s an even wider rural landscape.

We’re in the rolling hills of Dorset that inspired the likes of Thomas Hardy and Enid Blyton. This is quintessentially English countryside, tamed by countless generations of farmers but still quietly wild.

Or sometimes not so quiet, when the foxes set to their hoarse barking, or the owls call between the trees.

Animals our guests have seen around Upton Grange

Deer are a common sight and frequently captured in photos and on video. Many that visit us are sika, but Dorset is also home to roe, fallow and red deer.

Sika originated in the Far East and were imported to populate Brownsea Island in the late 1800s. Deer are surprisingly strong swimmers, and it wasn’t long before some escaped the island and began a mainland population.

Foxes are a common sight across England, so it’s no surprise that we see some here. Likewise badgers and rabbits are regularly sighted in the gardens. Some guests have also been able to capture badgers on video.

These animals are largely nocturnal and are usually sighted at dusk or as the day is beginning. It’s surprising how many of them live so close to us, but we rarely notice them. They hear and smell us long before we’re aware of them and they’re quick to disappear from view.

If you do spot one of our visitors and want to enjoy watching, it’s important to be quiet and to stay still. If possible, stay downwind of them to reduce the risk of them picking up your scent.

We’ve had no reports of wild boar, but apparently some are on the loose in West Dorset.

Corfe Castle
The Cobb, Lyme Regis

Reptiles you might encounter in Dorset

There’s a good chance of spotting a snake or lizard when you’re out enjoying the Dorset sunshine. There are three varieties of each in the county.

You’re only likely to encounter two of our three lizards – the common lizard and the slow worm. These brown reptiles can be seen across the county, particularly in rocky areas on sunny days.

The slow worm looks like a small snake but it’s technically a legless lizard. The sand lizard is more exotic but is sadly quite rare these days.

Snakes can be scary, but in reality they’re much more frightened of you. If you see one, it’s likely to be an adder or a grass snake. The adder is famed for being Britain’s only poisonous snake, but you’re very unlikely to get bitten and the venom isn’t that strong.

A third species of snake, the smooth snake, is rare so you’re not likely to see one.

Birdlife around Upton Grange

The British are famous for keeping a keen eye on garden birds and our guests are no exception.

We get many of the varieties you’re likely to see at home: sparrows, blackbirds, robins, wood pigeons, blue tits and great tits, wrens, jackdaws, crows, thrushes and magpies.

If you’re a keen birdwatcher you might want to keep a list of what you see while you’re here and let us know.

Others that we see include swallows and swifts, chiffchaffs and woodpeckers – both green and greater spotted.

Owls are a less common sight, although they can be heard at night. Our luxury cottage for two, Owls Roost, is named for once having been the home for one of these majestic creatures.

If you’re out and about at dusk you’ll probably catch the dark shapes of bats as they flutter around the gardens, hunting for their supper.

In the past we’ve enjoyed moorhens nesting in the gardens.

If you want to see more birds, there are a number of RSPB reserves nearby. Two are just down the road in Weymouth, at Radipole Lake and Lodmoor. Further away, to the east, is the popular reserve at Arne. They all provide an excellent opportunity to see a variety of birds, particularly those that enjoy the coastal wetlands.

Places to enjoy Dorset wildlife

Besides the gardens here at Upton Grange, these are some of the other local places where you can enjoy a glimpse or more of our local wildlife:

RSPB reserves at Radipole, Lodmoor and Arne – all very popular with birdwatchers.

Brownsea Island – particularly famous for being a rare haven in southern England for red squirrels.

Kimmeridge Bay – best known for rock pooling and the safest snorkelling in Dorset. It’s a great place to get close to some of our local marine wildlife.

Durlston Country Park – dramatic cliffs, hedgerows, meadows and woodland, all teeming with fascinating wildlife.

Hambledon Hill – a nature reserve set in and around one of Dorset’s most impressive Iron Age hillforts.

Tell us about the wildlife you've seen at Upton Grange

We love to hear about the animals, birds, reptiles and even insects you’ve seen when you’re staying with us.

How about sharing a picture with us on social media – tag it @upgtongrange or #uptongrange – or send us an email.