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One goes mad in Dorset: camping on Scout island

The colourful history of Brownsea Island in Poole harbour takes in Henry VIII, Lord Baden-Powell and the Famous Five. Now the public can camp among its flora and fauna

The first time I hear a peacock scream it scares the bejesus out of me. I’m sussing out my tree tent – cleverly strung between four sweet chestnuts a few feet off the ground – and the sound stops me in my tracks. The bird struts past, glorious tail ablaze, in pursuit of the less colourful (and seemingly unimpressed) peahen before embarking on an elaborate twerking ritual.

Close encounters with nature are part of any experience on Brownsea Island, the largest isle in Dorset’s Poole harbour and the second biggest natural harbour in the world after Sydney. As I sit back and soak up the view across to the Purbeck Hills, I spy white bunny tails disappear into bushes; oystercatchers flap above the sea and I lock eyes with a sika deer grazing nearby before she darts gracefully away.

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