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North Dorset – the Blackmore Vale, Cranborne Chase & Sherborne - A view from our expert author
Blackmore Vale is a tapestry of verdant fields © David Crosbie, Shutterstock
Cranborne Chase, which reaches into Hampshire and Wiltshire, offers equally exquisite landscapes and exceptional walking, cycling and horseriding.
I admit to being biased when it comes to this part of Dorset, for this is where I grew up. I have travelled to many countries around the world but there is no landscape that makes my heart sing like the glorious Blackmore Vale, with its tapestry of verdant fields divided by neat hedges and sprinkled with beguiling villages.
The best way to appreciate the beauty of the vale is to look down on it from above, whether by taking a flight from Compton Abbas Airfield or by viewing it from the top of Hambledon Hill, Bulbarrow Hill or the Saxon town of Shaftesbury. Alternatively, you can see it up close, perhaps with a walk along the Stour Valley Way, which follows the River Stour through the vale.
The sparsely populated Cranborne Chase, which reaches into Hampshire and Wiltshire, offers equally exquisite landscapes and exceptional walking, cycling and horseriding. At Knowlton is a rare and intriguing sight, the ruins of a medieval church perched in the centre of a Neolithic henge. Nestled in the wooded Yeo Valley in the northwest of the county, Sherborne is one of Dorset’s, and perhaps England’s, most appealing towns. It enchants the visitor with its blend of historic buildings, two impressive castles and imposing abbey.
The crumbling ruins of Sherborne Old Castle © Chris Pole, Shutterstock
North Dorset has historically been great farming country, in particular dairy farming. With the decline of the agricultural industry, many farmers have had to diversify but the area’s farming heritage is obvious – in its landscapes and its first-rate local produce.
Tourists tend to bypass North Dorset and head straight for the coast, which means the area is largely unspoilt and you can expect genuine Dorset hospitality and real Dorset characters. The delightful sing-song of Dorset accents still hangs thick in the air around these parts.