Brit Valley

The diverse settled area of the Brit Valley runs from the bowl-shaped vale around Beaminster, southwards towards Bridport and finishes at West Bay along the coast.

The diverse settled area of the Brit Valley runs from the bowl-shaped vale around Beaminster, southwards towards Bridport and finishes at West Bay along the coast. It drains the meandering rivers Brit and Mangerton within an open rolling valley. The narrow, flat valley floor contains major transport routes, connecting the larger settlements, and contains a pattern of neutral pastures, hedgerow trees and linear wet woodlands. The rolling valley sides share similar characteristics to the adjacent undulating woodland hills with mixed arable and pastoral landcover enclosed by trimmed hedgerows around large regular fields. Areas of wet flushes are dotted along the valley with significant marsh and reeds near Bridport. Areas of parkland and medieval field systems have survived the intensive urban and industrial land uses around the major settlements.

  • Meandering flat river floodplain with water meadows, damp neutral pastures and linear wet woodlands
  • Undulating hills with shallow, branching clay valleys
  • Patchwork of small, open fields on valley bottom with trimmed hedgerows, trees and occasional stonewalls
  • Small oak, ash and hazel woodlands on valley sides with large arable and pastoral fields with strip lynchets
  • Occasional orchards and parkland landscapes
  • Long open views along the valley floor
  • Extensive reed beds and grazing marsh towards the coast
  • Historic bridges and watermills of local stone along the valley floor
  • Scattered clustered settlements along branching valleys bottoms of golden limestone and thatch, supporting the area’s rich historic and built character
  • Market towns with a strong industrial heritage
  • Away from Bridport and Beaminster, the area has largely retained its strong undeveloped rural character, with associated characteristics of tranquility, remoteness and dark night skies.

Land shape and structure

Formed of fluvial deposits, the area is a flat-bottomed valley floor with a meandering river and floodplain becoming broader towards the coast. Beaminster is set around a distinctive bowl-shaped vale. The surrounding rolling valley sides are formed Bridport Sands with occasional outcrops of limestone and greensand.

Soils and vegetation

The deep wet soils along the valley are alluvial drift, mainly of recent riverine origin. Wetlands habitats in the valley floor include wet pastures, reed beds, willow and marsh. On the valley sides, small oak and ash broadleaved woodlands with hazel coppice contrast with the open rough grasslands and heather and gorse on the surrounding greensand summits. Extensive reed beds and grazing marsh are found towards the coast.

Settlement and land cover

The market towns of Bridport and Beaminster with West Bay along the coast have a major influence on the area. Urban fringe land use, tourism pressures and major transport routes are evident along parts of the valley floor. Landcover is mostly grazed pasture on valley floors with mixed arable and pastoral on the valley sides. A network of surrounding winding rural lanes connects small clustered villages of golden limestone and thatch, often with a medieval character. Large agricultural buildings are dotted throughout the valley sides along with more traditional farmsteads and hamlets.

Historic character

The area has a mixed character of predominately open fields, some regular enclosures, strip fields, rough ground and piecemeal enclosures with remnants of water meadows. Remnant eighteenth century parkland landscapes are found along the valley floor with fragments of strip lynchets, and pill mounds on the higher ground. The industrial heritage of the market towns has left its mark on the landscape, particularly the significant silk and flax industries at Bridport.  Various lime kilns and watermills are found along the valley floor.

Visual character and perceptions

The area has an open character, particularly along the wide valley floor toward the coast and within the surrounding rolling hills. With a variety of land uses, the area has a complex visual character ranging from extensive urban influences to peaceful rural countryside.

Strength of character

This landscape is judged to have a moderate character. The undulating landform and flat valley floor have been altered by development in part, with a loss of important landscape features around larger settlements. Intrusive industrial, residential and tourist developments around the urban fringe often considerably weaken the surrounding rural character. Outside of the main settlements, the patterns of landscape elements are stronger, although intensive farming practices have eroded a number of historic landscape features.


Along the valley floor, some hedgerows and stone walls have become fragmented with hedgerow trees in need of replacement, particularly toward the coast. Only small patches of wet unimproved pasture have survived, as significant areas have been drained or converted to arable. Loss of water meadows is also an issue. Development often has a negative impact particularly around the urban fringe and in the more open and coastal areas. Poplar planting detracts from the surrounding landscape character. Overall landscape condition is judged to be moderate and declining.

The overall management objective for the area should be to conserve the open and undeveloped character of the floodplains, wet woodlands and damp meadows with enhancement and restoration of hedgerows and hedgerow trees. Protection of the area from the influence of further intrusive development is a key objective.

Planning guidelines

  • Ensure that settlement growth is directed to areas of least sensitivity and pursue appropriate landscape mitigation measure.
  • 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 greenspace brought forward in connection with housing development is sensitively designed. It should maintain rural character, provide benefits for biodiversity, contribute to the functionality of green infrastructure and deliver landscape and visual mitigation and enhancement.
  • 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 farm diversification projects do not have a negative impact on local character.
  • Conserve and enhance important open skylines.
  • 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.
  • Minimise small scale incremental change such as signage, fencing or improvements to the road network which could change the rural peaceful character of the landscape. Protect verges along winding lanes and conserve characteristic finger posts and furniture.
  • Limit the impact of camping and caravanning sites. Restrict the expansion and creation of sites in areas where impacts are already significant, including areas subject to notable cumulative effects. Control proposals to introduce new ‘glamping’ facilities, based on landscape and visual sensitives. Pursue appropriate mitigation measures, including seasonal limitations, landscape enhancement measures and conditions that control noise and light pollution.
  • Where appropriate, encourage the planting of small-scale community woodlands to reduce visual impact of urban area, taking an integrated approach to increased access, nature conservation and greenspace provision.
  • Limit the impact of equine-related activity on landscape character, visual amenity and public access. Avoid the subdivision of prominent fields, particularly at settlement edges and on hillsides, and locate stables, jumps and other equipment in unobtrusive locations. Avoid the use of uncharacteristic fencing materials, which can be widely perceptible and appear out of place. Reduce conflict between equine management and public access where possible and ensure that public rights of ways are properly managed and maintained.
  • Ensure appropriate siting and design for essential infrastructure, such as water and electricity, integrating any required developments into the rural landscape, securing appropriate mitigation and delivering visual enhancements where possible.
  • 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.
  • Ensure that development linked to aquaculture and fishing is compatible with the National Landscape’s exceptional undeveloped coastline. Avoid locating permanent infrastructure in sensitive areas and minimise the impact of essential infrastructure through good design.
  • 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.
  • Maintain the tradition of combed-wheat reed thatching in villages, by resisting the use of water reed on buildings previously thatched in wheat reed. The Dorset traditional style of thatching (wrap-over ridge) should be pursued.

Management guidelines

  • Conserve the ancient pattern of small irregular pastoral fields and narrow lanes interspersed with irregular patches of woodland.
  • Replant hedgerow sections where historical loss has taken place and plant new hedgerow trees.
  • Enhance woodland management, particularly coppice woodlands with small scale planting of broadleaves along valley sides.
  • Promote conservation to low impact grassland management.
  • Enhance the function of habitats in supporting the wider ecological network.
  • Remove poplars in open locations.
  • Promote restoration of orchards and parkland landscapes.
  • Encourage maintenance of species rich hedgerows, particularly along the valley floors and replant any gaps where necessary.
  • Protect watercourses and associated wildlife from soil erosion and the effects of diffuse pollution.
  • Promote screening views to intrusive agricultural buildings/structures and settlement edges through planting new small-scale broadleaved woodlands.