Between the Isle of Purbeck and Poole Harbour lies a strip of heath land. Here is situated what is left of the village of Arne. Evacuated during the second world war when the area was used as one of three decoy sites for the Royal Naval Cordite Factory, a large and important works located just across the harbour at Holton Heath. The purpose of the sites was to send up false smoke & flames to distract the bombers. The actual decoy site was located towards Banks Gate Cottages in the direction of Stoborough and a set of large Anti-Aircraft guns was mounted on the hill nearby.
Although some of the village has since been rebuilt the only remaining relic of bygone days is the small 13th century church of St. Nicholas built on the hillside by monks. The church is very simple, having no tower, and the nave and chancel are one. It still retains its original lancer windows and the view from the altar windows is probably the best in the village. The village name comes from the Saxon, Earn, which means 'a house'.
Today most of the area around Arne is controlled by the RSPB, being one of England's most important nature reserves, home of the often talked about, but rarely seen Dartford Warbler, a tiny bird with dark grey plumage above and russet beneath, it is the rarest of English birds. During the summer a nature trail is laid out for visitors, but much of the reserve can only be visited by special permission from the RSPB.
One of the last major instances of old fashioned smuggling to be foiled on the Dorset coast occurred here in grand style on 13th April 1947. Post-war spivs, using the expertise of a former naval officer to pull off the scam and see them safely through what was still an active Second World War minefield, conned a Cherbourg wine merchant into supplying 1,236 quality hordes for King George VI's state visit to South Africa. The royal party were outward bound in HMS Vanguard, Britain's last battleship, and the wine and spirits were to be transferred from a French boat off the Isle of Wight, via a Royal Navy landing-craft.
That bogus craft, one from hundreds of such war-surplus vessels that were then cluttering estuaries and rivers, turned towards the coast as soon as the French boat headed back to Normandy. That night the cargo was unloaded in Poole Harbour, through a corridor between. the mines, at Shipstal Point, on to an ex-Army Bedford lorry that then trundled down the length of the Arne peninsula.
Its movements aroused suspicion and someone telephoned the police, who stopped it at Stoborough. Fines totaling £18,476 were to follow, plus sentences of up to a year in prison, and for one of the defendants it was taken into account that he had already smuggled 208 gallons of brandy and liqueurs into Chichester Harbour.