Ownership: ARC

Designation: SSSI, SAC, SPA, Ramsar

Restrictions: Open Access Land, please keep dogs on a lead.

Access: Morden Road B3075

Grid ref: SY 92335 90411

The Reserve

Great Ovens is 48 hectares of mainly dry heath that would have been part of the much larger complex of Wareham Forest which would of originally stretched all the way down to the Purbeck Ridge. At the northern end of the reserve is a large hill with a south facing aspect known as White Hill, this area as with the rest of the site, is ideal for sand lizards due to its heather structure and large areas of open sand. Grading down from the bottom of White Hill is a large area of wet heath which eventually grades back up into a mix of dry heath and dwarf gorse making this whole area ideal for smooth snakes. Heading further south across the reserve two ponds can be found, one relatively new and the other much more established. Both ponds are excellent for a large array of different dragonfly species as well as palmate newt and smooth newt as well as grass snake. The ponds have formed in an area of the reserve used historically for clay extraction, now leaving the area with favourable topograpy for sand lizards. The reserve as a whole is also good for migrant bird species including great grey shrike, nightjar, and if yopu are lucky a possible glimpse of a passing Osprey.

A Little History

Great Ovens was purchased by Amphibian And Reptile Conservation in 1996 with the use of a National Lottery grant. The nearby village of Sandford had an extensive pottery industry between 1850 and 1940 Great Ovens was extensively quarried during this period. For full details of the history of this site and the surrounding area see www.sandfordheritage.org

Species you might spot:


Sand Lizard (Lacerta agilis)  

Common Lizard (Zootoca vivipara

Slow-worm (Anguis fragilis

Grass Snake (Natrix natrix

Smooth Snake (Coronella austriaca

Adder (Vipera berus


Common Toad (Bufo bufo

Palmate Newt (Lissotriton helveticus

Common Frog (Rana temporaria


Dartford Warbler (Sylvia undata)

Nightjar (Caprimulgus europaeus)

Stonechat (Saxicola torquata)

Tree Pipit (Anthus trivialis)

Hobby (Falco subbutteo)


Silver Studded Blue (Plebejus argus)

Small Heath (Coenonympha pamphilus)

Grayling (Hipparchia semele)


Southern Hawker (Aeshna cynea)

Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta)

Scarce Chaser (Libellula fulva)

This is by no means a comprehensive list of species on the reserve.