|Here where a strip of heathland lies
between Poole Harbour and the Isle of Purbeck can be found what was once
the peaceful little village of Arne its name
deriving from the
Saxon word, Aern, which means 'a house', and was once
described as a :-
'lonely, lovely place where the Great Heath comes down to the wide blue waters of Poole harbour. Here is the peace of loneliness, for there is no voice save that of seabirds and wind'.
Then during the second World War it was evacuated to allow it to become one of three decoys sites for the Royal Naval Cordite Factory which was located at Holton Heath and it was also used by the army as a training area prior to the invasion of Normandy, and a lot of the houses were destroyed. The purpose of the decoy which was towards Banks Gate Cottage was to set off smoke and flames to confuse the German bombers and a large battery of anti aircraft guns were installed on a nearby hill.
But peace did return here but only for a short time and the only thing that remains of days gone by is the church of St Nicholas which was built in the 13th century on a hillside by monks, a simple little church with no tower. On 13th April 1947 smugglers which consisted of post war "spivs" pulled off a scam conned a French wine merchant into supply 1,236 quality hordes of wine and spirits, for King George VI's state visit to South Africa. The Royal entourage were sailing in Britain's last Battleship, HMS Vanguard and the contraband was to be transferred from a French boat off of the Isle of Wight via a Royal Navy landing craft, all being arranged by a dubious Naval officer. The bogus Landing crafts which was obtained from war surplus turned towards the coast as soon as the French boat had finished unloading, and in the hours of darkness sailed into Poole Harbour to unload. It sailed a path though the harbour minefield, which was already relayed to them by the unscrupulous Naval officer. The cargo was then loaded onto an ex-Army lorry and driven down the length of the Arne Peninsula. But somebody got suspicious and called the police who stopped it at Stoborough and the gang were arrested. After a court appearance a total of a year in prison and fines of near £19,000 were handed out and one poor man has the fact that he had already smuggled 208 gallons of brandy and liqueurs into Chichester Harbour!!
Today though you can walk across the heath to Wareham and most of the area is now one of the country's main nature reserves and here can be seen the rare Dartford Warbler a small dark grey bird which is a russet colour underneath. It is the rarest of all English birds.