When I walked on to Parley Common and looked around I confess that I thought to myself that it was not going to take long to look round. Two and half hours later when I returned to my car I had probably only seen a third of what I could have in terms of area. Parley Common is a big site for one so ensconsed in suburban Bournemouth and one we are so fortunate that has been spared the extensive post war development in this area.
In 2014 it was purchased from Canford Estate and now forms part of the Great Heaths project and it is now managed by a consortium of organisations including the Dorset Wildlife Trust and the Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust (previously the Herpitological Society) as it is a known site for sand lizard and smooth snake. Indeed, I understand the first record of a smooth snake in this country came from Parley Common back in early Victorian times!
Being from Purbeck and knowing the Purbeck heaths well I immediately noted differences between them and this heathland. The soil is much sandier here on the north side of Poole harbour and is generally much drier. As a result the pale mauve ling is the dominant heather whereas in Purbeck we have the rich purple bell heather. The gorse is diferrent too being mainly western gorse that flowers in later summer whereas in Purbeck we have European gorse which flowers in early spring. There are other subtle differences and to those who think all heath is the same, dull and boring, I urge you to take a closer look.