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Durlston Country Park National Nature Reserve is a fantastic site for both people and wildlife.  It has a huge range of habitats including clifftops, woodland, downland and meadows, all full of flora and fauna.  It is managed for people and wildlife under the ethos of ‘Conservation for Public Enjoyment’.

It is of international importance for it's grassland and seabird colonies. 

Downland habitat

Why is it so special?

With over 2000 species of plants and animal identified at Durlston, many of which are on the edges of their breeding range, Durlston  packs a wonderful amount and variety into its 110 hectares.

The list of national and international designations is long; it is recognised for its geology, natural history, landscape, views, history, dark skies, habitats, species and for its high quality provision and environment for visitors.

The combination of geology, climate, location and careful management makes it one of the best sites in the country for butterflies, Durlston's hay meadows are among the richest in the country while it's downland and seabirds of international importance.

View of downs and out to sea

‘Conservation for Public Enjoyment’

We aim to look after the environment providing habitats for the many species while enabling people to enjoy and learn from their visit to Durlston.

All the different facets of Durlston Country Park National Nature Reserve are managed together, each supporting the site and integral to its success.

Durlston Castle

Durlston as a Business

Dorset Council, who own the site, require it to recover its costs each year.  This is achieved through gaining income from car parking, retail sales, café, weddings, events, exhibitions, stewardship grants and donations. This wide range of income sources allows for more secure budgeting.  

The Rangers work closely with an amazing band of volunteers to keep costs down and achieve the management targets.

New path being made

Management of Durlston Country Park National Nature Reserve

The park is managed through a zoning system, with the area closest to the Castle being the intensive zone where most of the visitor pressure is concentrated, with seats and surfaced paths, and here the habitats and its wildlife are fairly robust.



Heading west the habitats are predominantly downland and meadows, with dry-stone walls and hedgerows marking the small field boundaries, and abundant patches of scrub.

To provide the short grassland turf required for the wonderful downland flowers to flourish the area is grazed by a herd of Hereford Cattle, who spend their lives munching on the plants keeping the rich mosaic of habitats.  Their hooves also adding to the diversity by disturbing the ground and providing bare earth which is used by various invertebrates.

The meadows are managed primarily though an annual hay cut, followed by  'aftermath' grazing, creating suitable habitat for taller plants and the many birds and insects they support.