Alners Gorse

One of the few relics of the medieval Royal Forests of Gillingham and Blackmore

Alners GorseAlners Gorse is one of the few relics of the heavily wooded landscape that used to make up the medieval Royal Forests of Gillingham and Blackmore, with its mosaic of small herb-rich pastures on heavy clay soils.

Much of the land in the Blackmore Vale has been ploughed and drained and has lost the rich diversity of animals and plants that it must have once had.

We aim to manage the grassland on the reserve to encourage the internationally threatened Marsh Fritillary butterfly which was formerly abundant in the area. We have thinned out the planted oaks and intend to remove most of the conifer plantation planted since the 1950’s in the northernmost sector of the reserve. From November 2012 we have four Dartmoor ponies on the site, to help with the management of the site by grazing the grass.

Educational Access: To find out about opportunities for schools and other groups to visit this reserve, FREE, see our Education Services page.

Guided walks and Conservation Action Days:  To find out more, refer to the Events Section of the Butterfly Conservation website.

There is a Flickr site for Alners Gorse, with some fantastic photos of the species seen there.

Site Details

Hazelbury Bryan, North Dorset


Butterfly species include

  • Marsh Fritillary
  • White Admiral (in the woods) pictured right
  • Silver-washed Fritillary (in the woods)
  • Brown Hairstreaks in July and August
  • Purple Hairstreaks in the oaks in August
  • White-letter Hairstreaks in the elm hedge in July.
  • Look out also for Red Admirals, Commas and Peacocks enjoying the blackberry crop in the autumn!   
White admiral
Moth species

About one fifth of all the UK moth species have been seen on this reserve: a reflection of the wealth of the flora of the area.

The range of shape, size and colour of the more common moths to be seen here is astounding<

Rarities include:

  • Dingy Mocha - pictured right
  • Sallow Clearwing
  • Ruddy Carpet
Dingy mocha
Other species


  • Nightingale
  • Garden Warbler
  • Green and Greater Spotted Woodpeckers
  • Buzzard, Kestrel, possibly Hobby in summer
  • Barn Owls breed nearby

Habitat type/ features

Alners Gorse is 14.4 hectares (35 acres) of grassland, blackthorn scrub and oak, birch and conifer woodland. It supports flourishing populations of Nightingales and Brown Hairstreak butterflies, which are both dependant on the blackthorn and gorse thickets, and a very rich moth fauna including several nationally scarce species.

The four ponies you may see grazing the site are Scarface, Holly, Clara and Blackberry. Please do not approach them or feed them - we need them to remain wild - and keep your dogs under close control near them. You can help us keep an eye on them by reporting any problems to Kathy Henderson on 07806 752412 or Nigel Spring on 07981 776767.



Grid reference: ST 736100 on Explorer Map 117 or Landranger 194.

There is permissive open access on foot to the reserve at all times. The entrance is on the road from Hazelbury Bryan to Kings Stag beside the Hazelbury Bryan village sign and 30mph sign. Park on the road verge well away from the bend.

It is often wet and muddy so waterproof footwear is recommended. Please keep away from the grazing animals and ensure dogs are kept under control. Camping, riding or vehicles are not allowed on the reserve.

Alners Gorse entrance

Owned by

Butterfly Conservation

The purchase of Alners Gorse Reserve by Butterfly Conservation in 2005 was funded by a legacy from Pamela Lewis, enabling us to preserve this fantastic site for butterflies. The land was bought from a local charitable trust, The William Williams Charity.

The sign pictured right is behind you after you enter the site.

Alners Gorse signpost