ONE of Dorset's best-loved nature sites has been nominated for top honours in this year's prestigious BBC Countryfile Magazine Awards.

The 563-hectare Arne peninsula site, which played a starring role in last year's Winterwatch and 2016's Autumnwatch broadcasts, is up against four other UK sites for the 'Nature Reserve of the Year' title.

Countryfile readers were asked to submit suggestions for the greatest nature sites in the British countryside, before an expert panel - including Countryfile presenters John Craven and Miranda Krestovnikoff - whittled nominees down to five in each category.

RSPB Arne senior manager Peter Robertson said: "It is such an honour that the magazine's readers love and value RSPB Arne enough to nominate us.

"RSPB Arne is a magical place. It is home to some of the UK's rarest wildlife, from Dartford warblers to ladybird spiders, thousands of species call Arne their home.

"Out of the way on the Arne peninsula, the reserve also gives fantastic views across Poole Harbour towards Corfe Castle and Purbeck."

RSPB Arne is up against four other nature reserves: Loch Druidibeg in the Hebrides; the disused colliery at Clara Vale in Tyne and Wear; Rodley wetland reserve outside Leeds and, finally, another RSPB site at Ham Wall on the Somerset Levels.

Last year millions of television viewers watched as RSPB Arne took centre stage during a week of live Winterwatch broadcasts. Presenters Chris Packham, Michaela Strachan and Martin Hughes-Games anchored the show, which is one of the UK's largest outside nature broadcasts.

The same BBC team broadcast Autumnwatch from the Arne reserve the previous year.

Although Arne is famous for its internationally important dry and wet lowland heath, it also boasts ancient oak woodland, farmland, reedbed, mudflats, scrub, wet woodland, acid grassland and sandy beaches.

This mix of habitats surrounded by Poole Harbour is one of the reasons the reserve is home to such a huge variety of species. RSPB Arne remains one of the few places in the UK where all six of the UK's native reptiles can be found.

Peter said: "We would love to win this award to help recognise the huge amount of effort put in by staff and volunteers since the RSPB first acquired the site in 1966.

"Arne's fans did a fantastic job in nominating us, and we now hope that the people of Dorset vote RSPB Arne to win."

Readers can vote online on the BBC Countryfile Magazine website.

Voting is now open until Monday 5 March.