River Stour, Dorset
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The River Stour is a 60.5 mile (97 km) long river which flows through Wiltshire and Dorset in southern England, and drains into the English Channel. It is sometimes called the Dorset Stour to distinguish it from rivers of the same name. The source of the river is at Stourhead, in Wiltshire, where it forms a series of artificial lakes which are part of the Stourhead estate owned by the National Trust. It flows south into Dorset through the Blackmore Vale and the towns of Gillingham and Sturminster Newton. At Marnhull the Stour is joined by the River Cale and then (two miles downstream) by the River Lydden. At Blandford Forum the river breaks through the chalk ridge of the Dorset Downs, and from there flows south east into the heathlands of south east Dorset. At Wimborne Minster it is joined by the River Allen, and at its estuary at Christchurch it is joined by the River Avon before it flows through the harbour into the English Channel. The Stour Valley Way is a designated long distance footpath that follows almost all of the course of the river.
For many miles the river is followed by the route of the now disused Somerset and Dorset Joint Railway, which bridged the river five times.
Because much of the river's course is across clay soil, the river's waterlevel varies greatly. In summer, low water level makes the river a diverse and important habitat, supporting many rare plants. In winter, the river often floods, and is therefore bordered by wide and fertile flood plains.
A number of towns and villages in Dorset are named after the river, including East Stour, West Stour, Stourpaine, Stourton Caundle, Stour Row, Stour Provost, Sturminster Newton, and Sturminster Marshall. Sturminster Newton is famous for its water mill and town bridge, which still bears the notice warning potential vandals that damaging the bridge is punishable by penal transportation.
Media related to River Stour, Dorset at Wikimedia Commons