To celebrate BBC Wildlife magazine's 60th birthday, we asked 60 people from our wonderful network of writers, presenters, photographers and conservationists to share their favourite places in the UK for wildlife. Six of those places are in the South East.
This corner is famous for its forests, rivers and coastlines, all teeming with wildlife. Vote for the one you love the most from the list below
(Voting closes at midnight 10 March 2023)
Our favourite places to spot wildlife in the South East
Briddlesford Woods, Isle of Wight
A few miles south of Fishbourne, bordering Wootton Creek and surrounded by farmland, is a wonderful, semi-natural ancient woodland that is at least 400 years old, though some claims date it back to the last Ice Age. With no resident deer population, a walk through Briddlesford is a unique experience. Free from the pressure of browsing, the understorey flourishes. Brambles, honeysuckle, spindle and guelder rose compete with one another, providing a haven for small woodland mammals.
Knepp Estate, West Sussex
The wonderful thing about Knepp (the rewilding estate in the grounds of Knepp Castle) is that it’s like stepping back in time.The dawn chorus there last May was unlike anything I’ve ever heard, with blackbirds and robins mingling with Cetti’s warblers and what sounded like hundreds of nightingales. Who gets to hear hundreds of nightingales these days? Me, at Knepp, that’s who! In summer, I hear the purring of turtle doves, I watch purple emperor butterflies fight and I’m roused from my tent by the unfamiliar clacking of stork bills.
Brasenose Wood, Oxford
When I moved to this area two years ago, Brasenose Wood – an ancient remnant of Shotover Forest and a 100ha SSSI – was one of the first places I stumbled upon and I’ve been going back ever since. Like many woodlands, it’s a window to the seasons, with different elements coming to the fore with each passing month. The trees offer mosses, liverworts and colourful buds in winter, before my attention is drawn to spring’s bluebells. This small square of trees is a vital green space for Oxford, separated from rows of houses by the curving ring road and a lovely hay meadow.
RSPB Dungeness is special to me because it is so varied and so vast, a landscape filled with gravel, sand, marshes and memories of jumping hillocks. It’s the third most biodiverse site in the country for insects, and my star species would be the beautiful brown-banded carder bee, which is most frequently seen in June and July, when the land is set alight with wildflowers. If I can tear myself from my beloved bees, I’ll wander over to Burrows Pit, near the visitor centre, to watch seabirds raising their young.
St Catherine’s Hill, Hampshire
I remember bounding about on these chalky slopes in 1966, peering down rabbit holes and hoping to spot a stoat, a superstar species in my Observers Book of British Mammals. One sunny afternoon in 1976, I caught a mazarine blue in my butterfly net (though I can’t prove the record because I released it and didn’t have a camera). In 1986, I sprinted up the slippery paths chasing kestrels for a film I was making for the BBC, and in 1996 I climbed to the beech hanger on the summit on a stormy winter’s day to try and ameliorate a bout of serious depression. In 2006, I dragged my stepdaughter Megan up to play in the turf maze, and in 2016 I trudged to the summit with my beautiful poodle Scratchy, shortly before he died. Last year, I panted to the top again to honour my father, who had introduced me to this magical place all those years ago. That gift of a little bit of our planet’s geography has made and saved my life, more a lifemark than a landmark. I love St Catherine’s Hill.
New Forest, Hampshire
Not much of southern England feels wild and remote, but if the mood is right – a cold winter day or during an angry storm – you feel a frisson of isolation here, particularly around Bolderwood and Fritham. The whole national park, with its ancient woodlands, plantations, heaths and bogs, and with the ponies and other livestock, is distinctly different from the surrounding land and feels special. Its wildlife is special, too – I have seen everything from honey buzzards to toadstools that could almost kill you at a glance.