BROWNSEA Island will be open for visitors twice this month, so residents can 'get festive and escape the Christmas mayhem on the mainland'.

The island, owned and managed by the National Trust and Dorset Wildlife Trust, is usually closed at this time of year.

However, occasionally it opens out of season to offer respite from the more comercial trappings of the festive season.

Visitors on the two special days can expect a guided walk around the island reserve, where experts promise some spectacular winter wildlife.

Afterwards, carols will be sung at the island's church.

Alison Armstrong, a National Trust member from Poole, said: "We came last year and it was a perfect winter's day.

"We had a brilliant guide on our wildlife walk and were lucky enough to spot some red squirrels and a host of birds on the lagoon.

"The carols in the church were wonderful, it felt so festive and yet so tranquil."

Brownsea Island, owned by the National Trust, is the largest island in Poole Harbour and home to a wide array of intriguing wildlife.

Every year is closes down to the public at the end of October, reopening at weekends only in February, then fully mid-March.

A National Trust spokesman said: "Although normally closed at this time of year, Brownsea Island will be open to visitors.

"These special days offer the chance to be able to soak up the sights and sounds of the nature reserve that abounds on the island at this time of year.

"The lagoon sees huge numbers of migrating and roosting birdlife throughout the year and the winter months are no exception."

As well as the birdlife, other residents on Brownsea Island included the rare red squirrel and sika deer.

The spokesman added: "For visitors wishing to catch sight of more of the wonderful wildlife in this unique island setting, Brownsea bird boats will be running from November to February.

"They offer a two-hour harbour cruise, landing on Brownsea Island with an option of a guided walk."

The two Christmas events are scheduled for December 18 and 20.

Bookings for these, and the Brownsea bird boats, are now available on the National Trust website.

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