Area: 174.8 hectares, 431.9 acres.
Description and Reasons for Notification:
The site includes remaining heathland on the southern shores of Poole Harbour, between the Corfe River in the west and Studland and Godlingston Heaths in the east. Bog and wet heath communities are specially well represented with fine transitions into the saltmarsh of the Harbour. There is also dry heath, acidic grassland and broadleaved woodland.
On Wytch Moor and at several other smaller locations valley bogs occur. These contain bog pools and carpets of bog mosses Sphagnum spp. with several species represented including the rare golden bog moss. Other frequent bog plants are cotton-grass, white beak-sedge, bog asphodel, round-leaved- and long-leaved sundews, bog-myrtle and bogbean. Where the bog drains into saltmarsh there are transitional communities with varying amounts of blunt-flowered rush, black bogrush, reed and parsley water-dropwort.
On the fringes of the bogs and in other wet areas, wet heath supports abundant Dorset Heath, a plant almost restricted in Britain to the Isle of Purbeck and which has its centre of distribution on the Rempstone Heaths. Cross-leaved heath is also frequent and purple moor-grass dominates some areas, locally forming deep tussocks and frequently associated with bog-myrtle. Marsh gentian, a scarce and decreasing plant, is found in some of the more open areas of wet heath. There are also stands of the rare brown beak sedge. The fringes of the wet heath and bog hold carr dominated by common sallow and downy birch, occasionally with the scarce royal fern. On higher ground drier woodland has pedunculate oak and silver birch.
Dry heathland is present mainly on slopes and the banks of old clay workings and the disused tramway. It is dominated by ling with bell heather and dwarf gorse. Common gorse frequently forms stands on the dry heath and in a few places western gorse occurs. In some areas, dry heathland has been heavily colonised by Scots – and maritime pine.
Flushes, on slopes fed by slightly base-enriched ground water, are found in a few locations and contain many elements of wet heath and bog but have additional species such as bog pimpernel, marsh lousewort and pale butterwort.
Small areas of grassland are also included. Damp acidic grassland, dominated by purple moor- grass and common bent has abundant tormentil, saw-wort, devil’s-bit, heath spotted-orchid and the local bitter vetch and Dyer’s greenweed. Drier acidic swards, dominated by common bent and red fescue, are often associated with several of the dominant species of dry heathland, together with herbs such as heath bedstraw, sheep’s sorrel, bird’s-foot and, in one location, the rare hairy bird’s-foot-trefoil.
The fauna of Rempstone Heaths is rich. The bog pools, streams and flushes, support a diverse dragonfly fauna including the very local small red damselfly and the rare scarce ischnura. Grasshoppers and bush crickets are also well represented with a strong population of the rare bog grasshopper, several colonies of long-winged conehead as well as good numbers of short-winged conehead and bog bush cricket. Mature dry heath, especially on cuttings and the banks of old clay workings, holds sand lizard and smooth snake, both rare and threatened reptiles. Breeding birds of the dry heathland include the rare Dartford warbler and nightjar, a scarce and rapidly declining species.