Finding new ways of enjoying Christmas-time and being with friends and family – wrap up warm and get outdoors!
This year we all know that Christmas will feel a lot different. Although we may not be able to celebrate in our normal ways, the good news is that being outdoors is widely recognised as a healthy place to be this winter.
We’ve come up with lots of ideas of things to do and places to go to help you celebrate the winter season. And if you can’t get out, there’s still plenty you can do to enjoy the midwinter from the comfort of your sofa.
We love that the benefits of being outdoors has been recognised during this pandemic, nature really does help you feel happier and healthier. Head out to one of Dorset’s iron age hillforts to feel on top of the world – great views, lots of space and so much fresh air your lungs will sing!
You’re spoilt for choice – Hambledon and Hod Hills in north Dorset have fantastic views over the Blackmore Vale. Lambert’s Castle, Coney’s Castle and Pilsdon Pen in West Dorset wonderful views across the Marshwood Vale to the Jurassic Coast. Or promenade along the immense grassy ramparts of Maiden Castle near Dorchester, the largest iron age hillfort in northern Europe.
We know that sunsets aren’t unique to Dorset but watching the sun set over the sea at Lyme Bay or Poole Harbour or over the rolling downs of West Dorset feels very special indeed.
Make the most of the short winter days to catch a few – slow down, wait awhile and the pleasure will be all yours! Top tips from the AONB Team include West Bay Pier, Creech Hill near Corfe Castle, and Thorncombe Beacon.
Poole Harbour is a very special place for wading birds and winter is a great time to see them . Many wading birds come here from the Arctic, North & Eastern Europe and other parts of the UK, attracted by the frost free climate and food-rich tidal mud & shallow lagoons. Over 25,000 wading birds call it home in the winter, including around Eurasian spoonbill, little egret and avocet.
Poole Harbour also has a number of webcams, helping to bring the outside in over the bleak winter months – have a look at the Birds of Poole Harbour website, for a unique and very mesmerising view.
And if you’d like a little help to work out what’s out there, then the RSPB have an excellent on-line guide that can help.
One of the special qualities of the Dorset AONB is its dark skies – areas where there is little light pollution, giving you the chance to enjoy a sky-full of stars in all their glory. Grab a torch, warm coat and flask and head to the darkest of dark skies.
Durlston Country Park near Swanage is a Dark Sky Discovery Site. It’s a great place to experience jaw-dropping solar system, star clusters, galaxies and meteor showers and one of the few places in Dorset where you can see the Milky Way reflected in the sea.
Or head for the downs and vales in West Dorset between Powerstock and Cerne Valley, one of the darkest places in the southern UK
Check out the CPREs night light maps for a fascinating insight into darkest Dorset.
Whether you want to walk off the festive excesses or meet up with friends & family for a gentle stroll, there’s plenty of walks to do that are interesting in winter. Striking landscapes come in all shapes and sizes in Dorset so you can take your pick depending on your mood, energy levels and company!
Here’s some winter walking suggestions:
- For a long walk and ancient landscapes, try one of 10 Field Guide walks in the South Dorset Ridgeway
- Bridport has a new Green Route and Sculpture Trail, great to combine with shopping or coffee stop
- Durlston Country Park near Swanage has easy-access routes and Tramper hire as well as and a special Christmas Trail for young explorers
- The North Dorset Trailway is great in all weathers – join it in Blandford and stock up on local delicacies before you set out
- The South West Coast Path is a great way to explore the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site, with over 80 miles to choose from
Enjoy a heart-warming seasonal celebration of all things Dorset with a brand new film, featuring Dorset music, song, story and dance.
The Ridgeway Singers and Band, led by Tim Laycock and Phil Humphries, have captured the story of how our ancestors celebrated Christmas in Dorset including new carols in the West Gallery tradition, interspersed with readings, archive photographs and other images from across Dorset. The FREE film can be seen from 4pm from 20th December to 3rd January, thanks to the amazingly creative Artsreach. Find out more
Our Stepping into Nature team also have some ideas for bringing the outdoors and and will be launching their indoor ‘Picnic in the Parks’ in January.
If you’re looking for a last minute present, gift some stunning landscapes with this Dorset Coast & Countryside 2021 Calendar produced by Dorset Magazine in conjunction with the Dorset AONB.
Featuring the winning images of our Landscapes for Life Competition, the calendar showcases the great variety of Dorset’s landscapes throughout the seasons.
A donation from each calendar sale will be made to the Dorset AONB to support future projects. The calendar costs £8.99 and can be ordered online from the Calendar Club, with free UK delivery.