A 26-hectare site, close to Dorchester, incorporating broadleaved and mixed woodland and Black Heath, a mosaic of birch and heath.
Listed on the Ancient Woodland Inventory, Thorncombe Woods has great habitat diversity with mature oak, sweet chestnut, beech and mixed woodland. The woodland gives way to Black Heath an area of birch and open areas of bracken and heath as well as a small pond.
Dormice have been recently recorded and Song Thrush, Marsh Tit and Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, all red listed birds of conservation concern, breed in the wood. On Black Heath it is possible to see Dartford Warblers, Yellow Hammers and Nightjars. There are also rare invertebrates associated with both the woodland and heathland.
Running through the site is a well preserved Roman road which is a Scheduled Ancient Monument (SAM). There are a variety of paths to explore throughout the site linking in with local rights of way to Puddletown Forest and Dorchester.
Grid reference: SY 725 921
Size: 26 hectares
Look out for: Dormice, Song Thrush, Common Lizard, Dartford Warbler, and Yellow Hammer
Habitat: Woodland, heathland and a pond
Owner: Dorset County Council
Managed by: Dorset Countryside Inland Team (West)
Nearest train: Dorchester
Parking: Parking is available on site
Access: Open access for all, no cycling or horse-riding
There is an impressive list of invertebrate species, especially those associated with dead wood such as the scarce hoverfly Volucella inflata. Black Heath is rich in heathland wildlife, all the common reptiles such as Adder, Grass snake and Common Lizard are present and there is a wealth of insect life, particularly orthoptera and odonata.
Rushy Pond provides a focus of interest as a watering place for birds and mammals and breeding for aquatic insects.
The site has one of Dorset's most notable historical associations in so far as novelist and poet Thomas Hardy was born in the cottage on the northern boundary of the woods. Black Heath forms one small residual fragment of Hardy's 'Egdon Heath' and Rushy Pond is mentioned in 'The Withered Arm'.
The Roman road would have stretched from Dorchester to Bradbury Rings. It is possible to walk the route via Thorncombe Woods, Black Heath, through neighbouring heathland out into Puddletown Forest.
Thorncombe Woods is one of the few woods of broad-leaved, semi-natural character that is open to the public in the Dorchester-Weymouth area.
How to get there:
Located 5km to the northeast of Dorchester
There are local public footpath links from Dorchester