Blackmore Vale

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View from Hambledon Hill overlooking Child Okeford and Blackmore Vale
Sturminster Newton watermill

The Blackmore Vale (/ˈblækmɔːr/; less commonly spelt Blackmoor) is a vale, or wide valley, in north Dorset, and to a lesser extent south Somerset and southwest Wiltshire in southern England.


The vale is part of the Stour valley, part of the Dorset AONB and part of the natural region known as the Blackmoor Vale and Vale of Wardour.[1] To the south and east, the vale is clearly delimited by the steep escarpments of two areas of higher chalk downland, the Dorset Downs to the south, and Cranborne Chase to the east. To the north and west, the definitions of the vale are more ambiguous, as the landscape changes more gradually around the upper reaches of the Stour and its tributaries. One definition places the boundary along the watershed between the Stour and neighbouring valleys of the Yeo to the west and Brue to the north. A narrower definition places the limits of the vale close to the county boundary and villages like Bourton, where the landscape transitions to hillier greensand, limestone and sandstone geology.[2] The River Stour flows out of the vale at Blandford Forum in the southeast, a town sandwiched between the Dorset Downs and Cranborne Chase.[3]

When viewed from above (e.g. from the chalk escarpments) the vale appears quite uniform - a large expanse of green, lush, low-lying land - but in geological terms it comprises alternating belts of different clay and limestone soils (and greensand at the foot of the chalk), which give rise to subtle variations in topography and appearance, and which affect land use. The majority of human settlements are built on the drier strips of limestone, whereas the more poorly draining clays (which comprise the greater bulk of the area) are more sparsely populated,[4] supporting mostly small farms, dotted across the vale. Due to the clay soils, land use is predominantly dairy farming. Until it was closed in 1998, Sturminster Newton livestock market was the busiest weekly livestock market in Britain.[5]

Cultural associations[edit]

The vale, in particular the village of Marnhull ("Marlott"), is the opening backdrop for Thomas Hardy's Tess of the D'Urbervilles;[6] he also lived and wrote in Sturminster Newton for a time.[7] William Barnes the poet also lived in Sturminster Newton. Douglas Adams and Robert Boyle lived in Stalbridge for part of their lives.[8]

Towns and villages[edit]

Settlements in the vale include:


  1. ^ "NCA Profile:133 Blackmore Vale and Vale of Wardour (NE539)". Natural England. Retrieved 20 October 2015.
  2. ^ "The Dorset walk 2: Bourton | Dorset Life - the Dorset Magazine".
  3. ^ "133: Blackmore Vale and Vale of Wardour". Natural England. Retrieved 20 October 2015.
  4. ^ Wightman, R. Portrait of Dorset, Hale, 1983, pp. 16-18
  5. ^ Baker, Stephen (August 2012). "Sturminster Newton: anything but a new town". Dorset Life. Retrieved 20 October 2015.
  6. ^ "About Marnhull". Marnhull Messenger. Archived from the original on 4 November 2015. Retrieved 20 October 2015.
  7. ^ "Sturminster Newton walk". BBC. Retrieved 20 October 2015.
  8. ^ "Stalbridge History Trail" (PDF). Stalbridge. Retrieved 20 October 2015.

External links[edit]

Media related to Blackmore Vale at Wikimedia Commons