The first time I hear a peacock scream, it scares the bejesus out of me. I’m checking out my tree tent – cleverly strung between 4 sweet chestnuts a few feet off the floor – and the sound stops me in my tracks. The bird struts past, glorious tail ablaze, to pursue the much less colorful (and unimpressed) peahen earlier than embarking on a problematic twerking ritual.
Close encounters with nature are part of any enjoyment on Brownsea Island, the biggest isle in Dorset’s Poole Harbor and the second biggest natural harbor in the international after Sydney. As I sit back and soak up the view throughout the Purbeck Hills, undercover agent white bunny tails disappear into timber; oystercatchers flap above the ocean, and I lock eyes with a sika deer grazing nearby before she darts gracefully away.
Ten minutes by way of the ferry from the mainland, National Trust-owned Brownsea is an Enid Blyton hideaway – it inspired the Famous Five’s adventures on Whispering Island. But it’s possibly best called the birthplace of the Scout movement: in 1907, Lord (then plain Major) Baden-Powell brought a set of 20 boys here to participate in an experimental camp, living near nature and practicing realistic competencies he had found out in the military during the Boer War. It released a global movement, and groups from 75 international locations visit the island every 12 months.
Until recently, most effective Scouts, Guides, and other personal businesses could camp right here – but a brand new “eco-tenting” choice now welcomes most people on sure dates, with numbers capped at 30 mid-week or 150 at weekends. There are tents or hammocks for lease (which include three tree tents, hung with the organizers’ aid), and our site visitors can deliver their personal, while gasoline cooking stations and all utensils are furnished. Hot water for showers is heated by biomass, wood from the island, and a sheltered communal dining area.
I arrive at the final ferry from Sandbanks. As the daytrippers head domestic, I can’t stop feeling smug. The campsite’s at the south shore, a 20-minute walk from the dock, and I’m the only character staying in overdue May.
I wander into the forest, and it’s no longer lengthy until I spot a pink squirrel and another – Brownsea is domestic and considered one of England’s ultimate colonies. I’ve been given a star chart, and as darkness falls, I look at the constellations before climbing into my tent. It’s a chunk like napping on a trampoline, but there are no troubles with the difficult floor or deflating mattresses, and I wake around sunrise to the sound of a woodpecker tapping overhead.
Despite its length – just one and a 1/2 miles long and 3-quarters of a mile huge – Brownsea has a wide-ranging habitat, from heathland to sheltered lagoons and wooded areas with more than 100 tree species. For its adventure playground for children, ure trails, crayon rubbings tre,e hiking routes, and a natural play location. Regular ranger-led safaris hunt for flora and fauna and, over the summer, unique family adventure weekends run, with campfires and activities from archery to canoeing.
I’m not always a fan of organized excursions. However, there are two free introductory guided walks each day, and volunteer Clive brings the island’s records to life so vividly that I wonder why there hasn’t been a BBC drama in this region.