Ferndown is a town and civil parish in Dorset in southern England, immediately to the north of Bournemouth and Poole. The parish, which until 1972 was called Hampreston, includes the communities of Hampreston, Longham, Stapehill and Trickett’s Cross. At the 2011 Census, the population of the parish was 26,559, making Ferndown the second largest inland town in Dorset in terms of population, after Dorchester.
Today a modern town with a good shopping centre and excellent community and leisure facilities. Much of the town's development was due to the arrival of the Stewart family from Scotland who set up a nursery in the town in 1864, to grow plants in warmer conditions than could be achieved at their principal site.
The Stewarts were entrepreneurs, registering many firsts in the horticultural industry - the first to grow and transport plants in pots, the first to establish a mail-order catalogue and the first to create a garden centre. This was established in Ferndown in 1955 before moving to their present site in nearby Broomhill.
In the late 1940s and early 50s Ferndown's zoo was a major attraction for visitors holidaying in nearby Bournemouth. The zoo boasted a wide collection of animals including bears, leopards, monkeys and a gorilla, but its star attraction was a lion called Ajax.
6 of the best things to see and do in Ferndown
1. A natural gem
Holt Heath National Nature Reserve is one of the largest areas of lowland heath remaining in Dorset. It also incorporates two semi-natural ancient woodlands within its 1000 acres. As well as being a haven for walkers, bird spotters have the opportunity to see the Dartford Warbler, Stonechat and Nightjar. In summer it is especially beautiful when the heather is in full bloom, turning the landscape purple.
2. Pop to the shops
The majority of Ferndown’s shops, restaurants and cafes are on Victoria Road and Ringwood Road, including the family-run Merchant of Venice deli where you will find a dazzling selection of made to order sandwiches. Also, check out the award-winning Salt and Vinegar on the Ringwood Road which scooped the title of Best Newcomer in the National Fish and Chip Awards in 2013. They make their own lightly minted mushy peas and a deliciously creamy homemade tartar sauce. Haskins Garden Centre at nearby Longham will have you lingering longer as alongside a huge range of plants and gardening products is a Hobbycraft store. It also has a large restaurant with a pizza oven which kids young and old will love.
3. Garden delights
Just a short drive from Ferndown is Trehane Nursery where the UK’s first blueberry plantation was established in 1957. The nursery sells a range of blueberry plant varieties each with its own distinct taste. Open Mondays to Fridays 8.30am to 4.30pm. Neil Lucas is internationally renowned for his ornamental grasses and has won numerous golds at Chelsea. He grows all his plants, including those award-winning grasses, at his 4 acre site and nursery at Knoll Gardens at Hampreston, a couple of miles outside Ferndown. The gardens are open from 10am – 5pm Tuesdays to Saturdays.
4. Park life
Located just outside Ferndown the 1000-acres of Moors Valley County Park and Forest has plenty to offer all the family. Step out on way-marked footpaths through the forest, hire a bike and explore their cycle routes or enjoy a trip on the narrow-gauge steam train. If you’re adventurous you can swing through the trees on the Go Ape Tree Top Adventure, or keep your feet on the ground and play pitch and putt, boules, croquet or even enjoy 18 holes on the golf course. Moors Valley Rangers also organise a varied events programme, details can be found at moors-valley.co.uk.
5. Get into the swing of things
Ferndown Golf Club is home to an 18 hole, par 71 course and a 9 hole, 18 tee course making it one of Dorset’s 27-hole premier golf venues.
6. An entertainment hub
Opened in 1986, The Barrington Centre on Penny’s Walk is celebrating 35 years as Ferndown’s main leisure and community venue. As well as hosting various clubs and associations, the centre has live concerts, comedy and rock gigs as well as films and bingo in its 250 seater theatre. The onsite café and bar Raffles Coffee House is very popular with locals who hotly tip its cracking bacon sarnies, delicious roasts and scrumptious bread pudding. If you want to stretch your legs after indulging King George’s Recreation Ground and the pretty Millennium Park are a short walk from the centre.