The North, West and South Escarpments and the Purbeck Ridge form dramatic backdrops to, and views of, much of the surrounding National Landscape. Although in geological terms an escarpment is slightly different to a ridge, they have been grouped together for this assessment as they share very similar characteristics and management requirements. With an undeveloped and open character, this landscape type with its steep sides, support important patches of chalk grasslands and hanging woodlands. These dramatic landscapes have been captured by the romantic paintings and writings of Wilsdon Steer, Moffat Linder, Daniel Defoe and Lamora Birch. Even today, the stunning setting of Corfe Castle, for example, acts as an inspiration to many.



Landscape change

  • Policy driven farming changes over the last seventy years has resulted in concentration of stock levels. This has limited the availability of livestock to graze land of low agricultural value of turf along the scarp face. In places, this has resulted in low grazing pressure and increased scrub encroachment on the steeper slopes.
  • Some historical loss of chalk grassland as a result of intensive arable agricultural practices from surrounding uplands has fragmented grassland habitats with further issues of soil erosion.
  • New built development toward the foot of the scarp has encroached on undeveloped character. Future pressure in locations close to Weymouth and Swanage is foreseeable. The expansion of housing development in such areas can affect the traditional form and character of rural villages.
  • The elevated nature of ridges is likely to bring further demand for construction of tall structures, including communication masts, as well as reservoirs. The demand for installing and upgrading such developments are affected by wider forces, including population growth and socio-economic trends.
  • Agri-environment schemes are likely to result in continued environmental management of the landscape, particularly with significant areas managed by conservation bodies.
  • Agriculture is becoming more market driven with intensification of production and farm diversification. This may result in short term changes in agricultural patterns in the landscape, such as fragmentation caused by game cover crops.
  • Light pollution can affect the setting of the escarpment faces.
  • Climate change may result in changes to key grassland habitats, landcover types and the demand for renewable energy provision.
  • 4×4’s and other motor vehicles along tracks causing erosion and noise disturbance.
  • Impacts arising from equine-related activities are becoming more widespread.