Boscombe and Southbourne Overcliff Local Nature Reserve

Wild ground along the top of the cliffs from Boscombe to Southborne with lots of grasses and flowers although some of the more unusal species are garden escapes.


Boscombe and Southbourne Overcliff: on the waterfront - It may seem hard to believe at first sight but between the busy road and buildings along the top of the cliffs to the eastern side of Bournemouth, the districts of Boscombe and Southborne, and the beach teaming with people, there is a nature reserve. In fact, it has the formal designation of a local nature reserve which has legal status and protection. It is amazing to think that this strip of land between two very human and alien environments could support sufficient natural interest to justify such recognition. I am not party to official papers and surveys that led to this designation, I can only work from my own amateur observations, but I would suggest that part of the reason is the rather unique geology of the area which produces cliffs some 50 feet high with extremely sandy soil. This leads to very dry soil conditions and that, in turn, is a difficult environment for plants to establish themselves and to grow into viable communities. This produces an interesting species list which then justifies the protection afforded by its designation. The cliff tops and cliff faces are smothered in vegetation of many kinds and this leads a diverse array of insect and animal life despite the overwhelming human presence, especially in summer. What I found particularly interesting are the number of non-native plant species that have obviously escaped from nearby gardens. Normally the presence of so may invasive, alien species would induce concern in conservation circles but actually it has helped make this area unique and worthy of conservation as it is! For instance, there are large areas of a very attractive Mediterranean grass species we know as large quaking grass and flowering plants such as the seaside daisy, the Duke of Argyle's tea plant, blanketflower, tree lupin and tamarisk. None belong here and yet all thrive and play their part. There is also a substantial colony of southern European wall lizards and the large green lizard here too. More naturally occurring species such a marram grass and lyme grass help bind the loose sandy soil together and other plants that find these condition suitable are well represented. I was struck by the abundance of hare's-foot clover and wild carrot amongst many other species. So, if you are on the waterfront at the eastern end of Bournemouth take a closer look, I think it will surprise and delight you; it did me but then I suppose I am funny that way!      
Site Name Boscombe and Southbourne Overcliff Local Nature Reserve
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Diversity Low (50-100 species)
Map Reference SZ130913
Site Habitats
Habitat Relationship
C2: Soft Cliffs and scree


C3: Coastal Dunes