The South Dorset Ridgeway is the ridge of land lying between Dorchester and Weymouth, from Eggardon Hill near Bridport in the west to Osmington in the east. The area is known by archaeologists as an internationally-important “prehistoric ceremonial landscape” for its concentration of archaeology, particularly from the Neolithic and Bronze Age (6,000-2,300 years ago).

As important as Stonehenge and Avebury for the sheer number of monuments and what they tell us of life in the past.

This ancient landscape has been the focus of our work for over 10 years, initially through the South Dorset Ridgeway Heritage Project, which laid the foundations for the 5 year South Dorset Ridgeway Landscape Partnership.

An explorer guide to the land of bone and stone

Download our guide to the great sights, walks and days out in this most ancient landscape. It’s an intriguing mix of wildlife, geology and history, yet remains one of the UK’s best kept secrets!

The Landscape Partnership ran from 2013 to 2018 and was supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund’s Landscape Partnership Scheme. This was a major project that brought together environment, heritage and arts organisations to work on a programme of work including direct conservation, community involvement, access, learning and training in the South Dorset Ridgeway. The Heritage Lottery Fund (now National Lottery Heritage Fund) have referred to the project as an exemplar particularly in the role of artists and arts organisations. Achievements of the Landscape Partnership include:

  • 20 projects delivering over £2 million investment in the area
  • 146 advisory visits to local landowners and farmers
  • 173ha of priority habitat restored, and 220ha enhanced and maintained for biodiversity
  • 540m of drystone wall restored
  • 2.2km of hedgerows restored
  • Condition surveys of 440 archaeological heritage features recorded
  • Over 2,700 volunteer days of practical landscape restoration achieved
  • 298 SDR events reaching over 11,759 participants
  • 1270 local school pupils engaged, 35 teachers trained in Forest School
  • 60 days of landscape training delivered to 39 participants
  • 37 young radio journalists trained

What now?

Relevant material from the project is still available for use, for instance teaching resources for schools, or guides, maps and walks for visitors.

Black Down, around Hardy Monument, has been improved for visitors and will continue to be improved for wildlife and access.

Hear about the Myths & Legends of the South Dorset Ridgeway. Local storyteller Martin Maudsley worked with 180 school children from six schools to create this imaginative and fun series of Ridgeway myths and legends. We invite and encourage schoolchildren, teachers and families to read the stories aloud to each other to fully enjoy them.

Some of our conservation activities have been able to continue, including  dry stone walling and hedge laying, thanks to support from the National Grid through our Reconnecting the Landscape project.