The derelict decoy overnight shelter at Decoy Heath, Morden Bog, Wareham, Dorset. The building is surrounded on three sides by a stream.
For some time now I’d been looking for the old decoy overnight shelter, at Morden Bog. I’d seen just one picture of it on the internet (thanks, ‘Dorset Rambler’), and then the quest was on.
I knew roughly whereabouts the overgrown 1¾ acre former decoy pond and its associated shelter was supposed to be. However, I’d never found it until today, when I set about looking for it in earnest. For clarification, this is not the same place as the Old Decoy Pond.
What is a decoy pond?
A decoy pond is an artificially created or modified pool of water, with a type of trap where wildfowl are lured to be killed for food and feathers. This particular shelter, or decoy hut, is where the Estate’s decoy man would have stayed to wait for his prey.
Where is the decoy shelter?
The decoy overnight shelter is situated on low lying ground within Decoy Heath, at Morden Bog. Even finding the derelict hut is a bit tricky. That’s because It’s hidden away down a muddy track and almost completely enclosed by trees, a stream and a swamp. To the south of it is a forest of downy birch trees.
Surrounded on three sides by water, the shelter is only accessed via a small bridge. Making things more interesting are numerous ‘booby trap’ tussocks of grass, encircled by channels of water. These mounds are greater tussock sedge (Carex paniculata), which is one of the UK’s largest sedges. As tussocks can be over a metre high, it means if you get your footing wrong you could easily sprain your ankle. Alternatively, you’ll get a damn good soaking in fetid water!
The decoy shelter’s rather treacherous location certainly makes getting a good photograph difficult. There’s really only one angle to take your shot, but with so many trees and undergrowth in the way that’s a problem.
History of the decoy overnight shelter
The shelter has iron stone foundations and upper walls of brick. It was just a single room with an entrance to the east, a window to the west and a fireplace and chimney in the south western corner.
Probably originally thatched, the roof has now fallen in. Trees grow out of the tumbledown walls, and brambles and ivy compete to cover the building’s remains. Unfortunately it won’t be long before what’s left of the shelter either disappears under a mass of plant life, or falls down completely.
Constructed in 1724 by the Drax family, of nearby Charborough Estate, the decoy and associated shelter became disused from 1856. This was as a result of shooting that was allowed within the surrounding area, causing too much disturbance for the decoy to carry on.
The decoy was recorded by Daniel Defoe in 1724-26 and Sir Ralph Payne-Gallwey in 1886, and is one of only two known surviving examples found in Dorset. The other is at Abbotsbury.
Once common in lowland England, modern drainage has now changed or destroyed all but a few examples of these decoy ponds.
Morden Heath decoy – now a scheduled monument
In May 2000 the decoy pond and overnight shelter at Morden Bog, Wareham, was made a scheduled monument under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979. This means it is a “nationally important” archaeological site or historic building, given protection against unauthorised change.
You can read more about scheduled monuments here:
History of the decoy pond and shelter courtesy of Historic England.