Accessing the Reserve
Options for accessing the Reserve are limited owing to its physical nature. Chesil Bank can only be accessed via the car parks at either end of the Fleet, Chesil Beach in the east and Abbotsbury to the north-west (please see map to the right). Outside the Reserve to the east there is car park at Chiswell, Portland, and to the west, car parks along the B3157 at West Bexington, Cogden and Burton Bradstock .
Both car parks are linked to the coast path which follows the landward side of the Fleet. There are also options to join the Fleet via a number of footpaths that link into the coast path from the B3157.
Chesil Car Park, Portland, and the Wild Chesil Centre
This car park is situated on the A354 near the mouth of the Fleet Lagoon at Ferrybridge, the boundary between Weymouth and Portland. The Abbotsbury Beach car park is a mile south of the village of Abbotsbury just of the B3157
A visit to the Wild Chesil Centre is a must. The Centre, managed by the Dorset Wildlife Trust, is open daily. The Centre managers and their voluntary team of assistants welcome you, and can give you their individual attention. There are interactive displays and live camera images to help you further enjoy the wildlife interests that the Reserve has to offer. The Centre has a café and toilets. There is a car park fee.
Abbotsbury Beach Car Park
This car park allows direct access to Chesil for picnicking and angling, and although access going east is limited, wildlife enthusiasts will find a good range of shingle flowers and the opportunity to observe birds in the adjacent reed-beds and at the head of the Fleet. It is a good base for walking being adjacent to the coast path and other footpaths leading to Abbotsbury Village, St Catherine’s Chapel Hill and other higher ground around from where there are excellent views. There is a café (summer months only) and toilets.
Visiting on Foot?
Whilst visitors are welcome to visit the Reserve on foot from these car parks it is highly recommended to read the following guidelines to ensure a safe and enjoyable walk whilst having as minimal impact on the flora and fauna of the site.
For many years people have come to Chesil and the Fleet for the experience and passive recreation. It is therefore, one of the key policies of the Reserve’s management team to enable members of the public to access, use and enjoy the area. However, this cannot be achieved at the expense of impacting on the sensitivities of the wildlife habitats within it. Inappropriate human activity can cause serious disturbance and/or damaging.
The area of Chesil under consideration is wholly private property. There are no public rights of way on it but the landowner permits access to members of the public at Abbotsbury and as described below.
It is hoped that you will follow the restrictions described below and permit the area’s nature to continue to flourish.
Chesil is closed between the 1st May and 31st August as a thoroughfare between the Tank Teeth at Abbotsbury and the Portland Boundary Stone.
This restriction protects ground nesting birds. Whilst Chesil no longer holds the numbers of nesting terns that is used to, it is possible that a re-colonisation could take place at any time. Pairs of Ringed Plover still nest.
There is a nationally important colony of Little Terns that nest on Crown Chesil at Portland, two miles east of the Reserves eastern boundary and which is fenced common land.
The restrictions also benefit Abbotsbury’s famous colony of Mute Swans, a well established nesting colony of Common Terns and several important populations of mammals, including hares. The shingle vegetation and the Fleet foreshore is a habitat of high importance for saltmarsh and several species of molluscs.
Outside this ‘Closed Season’ access is permitted between Abbotsbury and Portland but only on the seaward flank of the beach.
Walking on the outer flank of Chesil prevents disturbance to significant populations of water birds such as Brent Geese and Wigeon that migrate to the Fleet to join the swans for the winter. It is also important that the beach’s vegetated areas remain undisturbed in the winter too.
There are a number of difficulties and restrictions associated with boating access on the Fleet and these are summarised on the ‘Boats and Dinghies’ page found in the drop down menu at the top of the page.