From fossil hunting to fantastic walking trails, the Dorset coast has something for everyone.Read more...
This remarkably unspoilt area is a quintessentially English landscape © David Crosbie, Shutterstock
Hills such as Hambledon and Bulbarrow encircle the vale, and provide fine vantage points over its neat fields lined by hedges, its woodland and its villages.
Most visitors to the West Country whizz down the A303, overlooking the Blackmore Vale just beneath it and, as a result, the area remains remarkably unspoilt. It lies in North Dorset and stretches just over the border into southwest Wiltshire, a wide, sheltered valley of fertile agricultural land dotted with charming, quintessentially English villages, many of which are built from warm, golden stone. The Dorset Downs and Cranborne Chase border it, with the towns of Shaftesbury (in the north) and Blandford Forum (in the south) being natural boundary markers. Hills such as Hambledon and Bulbarrow encircle the vale, and provide fine vantage points over its neat fields lined by hedges, its woodland and its villages. In spring and summer the landscape is sprinkled with yellow highlights – crops of oilseed rape. Those views would once have been quite different as the vale was densely wooded and the area around Gillingham a royal hunting forest. Few pockets of woodland remain, the most notable being on Duncliffe Hill, which rises like a beacon from the flat base of the vale.
From its source at Stourhead, just over the Wiltshire border, the River Stour meanders through the vale on its way to the sea at Christchurch. A series of mills used to punctuate the water’s journey through the vale, and several of them are named in the Domesday Book. Of some 50 mills that used to operate on the River Stour, many are now derelict but some have been lovingly restored. Sturminster Newton Mill is still in working order and is open to visitors in the summer months.