Bear Mead

Text and pictures - John Palmer

Bear Mead is a small private Nature Reserve on the NW border of Corfe Mullen, run by John and Rosie Palmer. Access is along the bridleway from the A31, opposite Candy's Lane.

Bear Mead on the South bank of the Dorset Stour is a beautiful place, 25 acres of meadow and pasture, old hawthorn hedgerows dotted with big ash trees, and the river gliding by. Wimborne Minster and Charborough Park tower can be seen in the distance, the bells heard on Sundays, and there are often spectacular sunsets across the flat floodplain. Deer, swans, herons, moorhens and coots are seen every day. There is private fishing (a 7 pound chub was caught recently) but no right of way crosses Bear Mead. The occasional canoeist paddles upstream from Eye Mead bridge towards White Mill bridge. The nearest road or house is 700 yards away. [-- more --]

Because much of the river's course is across clay soil the water level varies greatly. In summer low water level makes the river a diverse and important habitat, supporting many rare plants. In winter the river sometimes floods, and is therefore bordered by wide flood plains.

To preserve the rich riverbank flora, cattle and sheep are not allowed and the lush pasture grass is cut by machine in June. Part of Bear Mead is devoted to a plantation of oak saplings from Sherwood Forest.

In 1813 the area was affected by the Inclosures Act, owners had to erect heavy wire and post fences before ownership was awarded. Today's mature hedges were probably planted then. Use was all pasture or meadow.

Nearby is the site of a now-vanished and little-known watermill called Lake Mill. Fishing Rights are let to Salisbury & District Angling Club (who call the beat "Bear Mead Fishery").

Lake Mill is mentioned in the Kingston Lacy records of 1606 as being owned by William Gillingham, ancestor of the founder of Pamphill school. The Mill was supplied with water from the Stour along a disused arm of the river, which was filled in around 1800, becoming an overgrown ditch. In 2007 the flow was restored, and in winter can be seen flowing in both directions!

In 2008 a mysterious fallen Monolith was discovered at Bear Mead. Weighing 1,000 kg, permission was obtained to raise it. It may have been a 'hele' stone for a stone circle on the other side of the river Stour.

More information about Bear Mead can be found online at
Contact the warden and webmaster on

Gates into Bear Mead have to be kept locked against dumping vehicles, but careful walkers are allowed.

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