Studland is a small village on the Isle of Purbeck in the English county of Dorset. It is famous for its beaches (named South Beach, Middle Beach and Knoll Beach) and Nature Reserve. In 2001 Studland had a population of 480, the lowest in 50 years. Many of the houses in the village have been bought up as holiday homes, second homes, or guest houses, and the village's population varies depending upon the season. The village is five miles (8 km) south of the conurbation of Poole and Bournemouth, but separated from it by Poole Harbour and the Sandbanks Ferry. The village is five miles (8 km) north of the town of Swanage, over a steep chalk ridge.
The bay is protected from the prevailing winds and storms by Old Harry Rocks, the chalk headland that separates Studland from Swanage bay. This has allowed, over a period of approximately 600 years, a sandy beach to be deposited against the reddened sandstone cliffs, at the south end of the bay, and the Reading and London clay formations at the north end of the bay. This deposition has led to the growth of a psammosere (sand dune system). The beach extends north, part way across the mouth of Poole harbour.
Behind the sand dunes there is a large area of heathland, called Studland heath, and Poole harbour. There is Little Sea, a fresh-water lake amongst the dunes which was cut off from the sea by the development of the dunes. The lake is a haven for birds and other wildlife.
To the West of Studland Bay, there is a large area of heathland known as Godlingston Heath. Standing on a mound in the heath is the 400 tonne, 17 ft (5.2 m) high Agglestone Rock; the local myth states that the devil threw it there from the Isle of Wight. In truth, it is more than likely part of a band of rocks that run across the whole of Godlingston Heath. The sandy earth was eroded around the firmer rock and left it standing proud. Other lumps in the landscape can be seen across the heath, including the Puckstone which, in years to come, may be another standing rock similar to the Agglestone.
The heath and harbour are home to Britain's largest onshore oil field, and BP's Wytch Farm refinery is hidden amongst a pine forest to the west of the heath. Studland and Godlingston heath have been a National Nature Reserve since 1946, and the site is on English Nature's list of "Spotlight Reserves", the 31 most important reserves in England. The site is also a protected Site of Special Scientific Interest, Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, part of the Purbeck Heritage Coast, and a gateway to the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site. The site is one of only few places (mostly in Dorset) in Britain which is home to all six native reptile species. The site is owned and managed by the National Trust, who clear scrub, keep the beach tidy, and carefully manage the millions of visitors the site gets each summer.
The area is just across Poole Harbour from the conurbation of Poole, Bournemouth and Christchurch. The five-mile long beach is close enough to be convenient and accessible, but far enough to be free from the pollution and sewage associated with urban beaches. This and the careful management by the National Trust and calm shallow waters make it one of the most popular beaches in the country, and on hot summer weekends the beach fills up with thousands of people. The National Trust have restricted parking provision at the site to prevent overcrowding. A short northern stretch of the beach is reserved as a naturist beach.
The final stage of the South West Coast Path (if walked in the conventional anti-clockwise direction, starting at Minehead) follows Studland Bay and ends at South Haven Point, where a sculpture marks the end.
The village and beach were used as a training area before the D-Day landing in the Second World War. On top of Redend point, a small sandstone cliff which splits the beach in two at high tide, is Fort Henry. Built in 1943 by Canadian engineers, it is 90 ft (27 m) long, with 3 ft (1 m) thick walls and an 80 ft (24 m) wide recessed observation slit. On April 18 1944 King George VI, General Sir Bernard Montgomery, and General Dwight D. Eisenhower, met here to observe the training troops and discuss the plans for the coming battle.
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