Bexington Coast

Running from the mouth of the river Bride along to the Abbotsbury, the Bexington Coast is an open, windswept landscape of rough coastal grasslands and patches of scrub.

Running from the mouth of the river Bride along to the Abbotsbury, the Bexington Coast is an open, windswept landscape of rough coastal grasslands and patches of scrub. Backed by the South Dorset Escarpment to the north, the undulating chalk and limestone slopes are exposed to the forces of the coast. There are dramatic views of the Fleet, Portland and towards Lyme Bay. The area is largely treeless expect for a few windswept specimens. Stunted hedgerows and post and wire fencing divide the expansive areas of rough grasslands and there are also areas of arable and pasture further inland. Toward the coasts, there are areas of reed beds and marsh. The landscape has a largely undeveloped character, with occasional farmsteads, small scale tourist development and car parks along the coast. The village of West Bexington provides a well-used point of access to the coastline.

  • South facing undulating chalk and limestone slopes of rough grasslands and patches of scrub, enclosed by chalk escarpment to the north
  • Continuous patchwork of regular fields with stunted hedgerows, with occasional windswept trees
  • Open and sweeping panoramic views of the exceptional undeveloped coast
  • Largely unsettled with occasional farmsteads and surviving strip fields, supporting the area’s strong undeveloped rural character
  • Steeper inland slopes of grazed pastures and scrub
  • Coastal grazing marsh and reeds, including some areas of nationally important coastal habitat

Land shape and structure

The character is strongly influenced by the south facing chalk and slopes limestone leading towards the coast. The undulating topography is exposed to powerful coastal forces, shaping its rough and unsettled character.

Soils and vegetation

With underlying chalk and limestone, soils are mainly thin, supporting extensive rough grasslands and patches of scrub. Towards the western portion, significant areas of costal grazing marsh and reed beds add to the natural character.

Settlement and land cover

The area is largely devoid of settlement apart from occasional farmsteads and the village of West Bexington and dwellings at Othona. There are occasional car parks and tourist-based development distributed across the area. Landcover is largely pastoral, and mostly treeless with significant areas under management of the National Trust. The area is relatively remote with only narrow farm tracks and the South West Coast Path running along the pebbled beach.

Historic character

The area is largely late planned enclosure with some pockets of surviving strip fields in the west and piecemeal enclosures adjacent to settlement. The landscape retains a strong sense of traditional, extensive grazing patterns. World War II pill boxes add to the historic interest.

Visual character and perceptions

The strong influences of the coast have a dominant effect in shaping the rough and exposed character. With an absence of trees and sloping landform, the area has an open and natural coastal appearance.

Strength of character

The landscape is judged to have a strong character. The exposed, sloping landform, with sweeping views of the coast and extensive cover of rough grasslands enforce a strong sense of visual unity and character throughout the area. The distinctive features such as the patches of scrub and stunted hedgerows with occasional windswept trees reinforce the strength of character of this dramatic landscape. The relatively late enclosure of the landscape has allowed a good survival of strip fields. Among the few detracting elements that weaken the character are signage around the coastal car parks and some visitor-based development, including caravan parks.


Farming practices and the positive management of the National Trust across areas of rough coastal grassland and reed beds help ensure the continuity of past land management, supporting good ecological condition of these important habitats. Although some arable change has taken place, this has not greatly affected the condition of the landscape, with limited evidence of poor management. However, scrub encroachment is a threat to the viability of grasslands and requires constant management to maintain the balance of habitats. The replacement of hedgerows can occasionally be observed and should be resisted. Although there are a number of visually intrusive developments across the area, including caravan parks, pylons and poly tunnels, the overall character and condition of the landscape is not substantially harmed by these at present. Nonetheless efforts to mitigate such visual impact through within future planning is an important objective. Overall, the landscape is judged to be in good and stable condition.

The overall management objective for the area should be to conserve the open and undeveloped coastal character whilst enhance the characteristic features of rough coastal grasslands and reeds. Reduce the impact of visitor-based development.


Planning guidelines

  • Maintain and enhance the sweeping views of the coast.
  • Resist intrusive development in open locations.
  • Reduce the impact of car parks and other visitor-based development through sensitive signage and improved management.
  • Conserve and enhance the open character of coastal roads and viewpoints and conserve characteristic finger posts and furniture.
  • Ensure pylons, masts and other vertical elements are carefully sited and the number restricted to avoid visual clutter and further interruption of the characteristic open views. Encourage the under-grounding of small powerlines in open, sensitive locations.
  • Ensure new agricultural dwellings, barns and structures enhance the local character, are located to reduce their impact on open views and, where necessary, adopt design measures to reduce their perceived scale.  Encourage the restoration of traditional barns and farm buildings and consider the replacement of lower quality structures when planning for expansion.
  • Ensure new housing development is complimentary to settlement scale, form and density and secure appropriate mitigation measures. Promote the use of previously developed land before greenfield sites, where this is well connected to settlement form. Require appropriate materials and architectural detailing, recognising the variable viability issues affecting market and affordable homes. Reduce the impact of associated features, including lighting, parking and access.
  • Ensure that coastal and flood defences are compatible with the National Landscape’s exceptional undeveloped coastline. Require the use of materials that are complementary to the character and appearance of their environs.
  • Require limitations to and mitigation of noise and light pollution, recognising the impact these issues have on tranquility and undeveloped rural character. Avoid unnecessary and prolonged noise and light pollution. Require good design to limit the impacts and use appropriate planning conditions to secure ongoing control.

Management guidelines

  • Encourage low impact grazing along the coast to reduce scrub encroachment on important grasslands.
  • Encourage grazing on the steeper inland slopes to reduce further scrub encroachment.
  • Conserve the pattern of stunted hedgerows, maintaining a balance between post and wire fencing in more open areas.
  • Enhance the management of reed beds for nature conservation and for the production of local thatching materials.
  • Woodland planting is not an objective for the area.
  • Protect watercourses and associated wildlife from soil erosion and the effects of diffuse pollution in the fleet.
  • Promote appropriate management of arable farmland to create a wildlife-rich habitat supporting farmland birds. This will include retaining areas of fallow land, maintaining an unploughed margin around fields and the introduction of conservation headlands.
  • Enhance the function of habitats in supporting the wider ecological network, where appropriate.
  • Protect the surviving pattern of strip fields.