Halstock Vale

Similar to the Marshwood Vale, the Halstock Vale is a traditional, pastoral clay vale with consistent patterns of trimmed hedgerows and hedgerow oaks.

Similar to the Marshwood Vale, the Halstock Vale is a traditional, pastoral clay vale with consistent patterns of trimmed hedgerows and hedgerow oaks. The irregular pattern of winding rural lanes and streams, along with small isolated settlements and agricultural buildings add to the sense of rural tranquillity and character. It has a more intimate character and undulating landform than the Marshwood Vale with large broadleaved woodlands on the gentle slopes around the central part of the vale. To the north, the vale is enclosed by limestone hills with the slopes of the chalk escarpment to the south.

  • Intimate gently rolling lowland pastoral vale
  • Consistent field pattern with network of trimmed hedgerows and mature hedgerow trees, providing a speckled appearance to the landscape
  • Winding rural lanes with trimmed hedgerows and steep species rich verges
  • Scattered, isolated farmsteads
  • Small scale watercourses and streamside willows and alder and other riparian vegetation
  • Settlement pattern of dispersed small nucleated villages with variety of vernacular building materials and thatch
  • Occasional meadows of unimproved, neutral grasslands
  • Occasional Orchards and parkland landscapes
  • The area has maintained a peaceful, tranquil and undeveloped rural character with dark night skies

Land shape and structure
A small central clay vale centred on winding streams, with the surrounding limestone hills and chalk escarpment creating a sense of enclosure. The west of the vale has a more undulating landform.

Soils and vegetation
The underlying clay with heavy soils supports a range of damp neutral pastures with patches of rush. Along the network of small streams, thin corridors of wet willow and alder add structure to the flat landscape. On the margins of the vale, small patches of calcareous grasslands are found.

Settlement and land cover
Settlement is largely related to the traditional agricultural character of the area. Expect for the village of Halstock, there are no significant settlements, with a dispersed pattern of small clustered hamlets and farmsteads, connected by an expansive network of narrow, often sunken, winding rural lanes. Characteristic landcover consists of irregular damp neutral pastures, set within a continuous network of trimmed hedgerows with oaks with small oak, ash hazel woodlands. There are also larger mixed plantations and shelter belts. Towards the south east of the vale, the area has a parkland character.

Historic character
The area has been shaped by centuries of agricultural production and woodland clearance, possibly from prehistoric times. In the western part of the vale, piecemeal enclosures predominate with a mix of regular and planned enclosure to the east. Occasional areas of strip fields also survive. Although the area has little undiscovered visible archaeology, a site of Roman Villa in the centre of the vale is of interest, with probably others still unidentified. Occasional traditional orchards are also found with a parkland landscape to the south east of the area.

Visual character and perceptions
The central flat vale landscape has a broad character with vast open skies with a strong sense of rural tranquillity. However, the area has more of an intimate and enclosed character than then Marshwood Vale, due to the occurrence of broadleaved woodlands and small-scale valleys.

Strength of character

The area has a strong character dominated by the consistent patterns of trimmed hedgerow with equally spaced hedgerow oaks, with small scattered hamlets and farmsteads of vernacular materials. Land use has remained largely pastoral, underpinning the strong association with traditional farming practices, with little evidence of recent change. Large geometric plantations sometimes weaken the intimate, pastoral character.


The Halstock Vale is well managed pastoral landscape although is intensively managed in places, particularly towards the east. Some hedgerows are in decline with hedgerow oaks becoming mature and stag headed. Although there are some areas are still managed as unimproved grasslands, most of the wet meadows and unimproved pastures have been lost. Wet woodlands are mostly confined to a narrow corridor with orchards in need of positive management. Large agricultural barns and geometric woodland plantations sometimes stand out in the open landscape. Condition of the landscape character is judged as moderate and stable.

The overall objective is to conserve the patterns and features that contribute to the rural, tranquil landscape of small-scale pastoral fields, winding lanes and small scattered settlements. Restore elements in decline such as the hedgerows and hedgerow trees wet pasture and wet woodlands, particularly where these strengthen riparian corridors.

Planning guidelines

  • Conserve the pattern of small settlements and surrounding woodlands.
    Adopt appropriate screening of intrusive agricultural buildings/structures and settlement edges through planting new small-scale broadleaved woodlands and hedgerow trees.
  • Resist development that would destroy the visual unity of the undeveloped vale, ensuring scale and materials enhance local character.
  • 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.
  • Conserve the sense of rural tranquillity and views of surrounding summits.
  • 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 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.
  • Conserve the character of rural roads and enhancement of hedge banks and traditional finger posts.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 and long-straw thatching in villages by resisting the use of water reed on buildings previously thatched in wheat reed or long-straw. The Dorset traditional style of thatching (wrap-over ridge) should be pursued.

Management guidelines

  • Encourage maintenance of boundaries, particularly along the valley floors and replant any gaps.
  • Plant new hedgerow oaks.
  • Restore stream side habitats and wet woodlands and consider extending wet woodland, particularly around existing settlements and farmsteads.
  • Conserve and enhance management of neutral unimproved meadows and encourage restoration where appropriate.
  • Protect watercourses and associated wildlife from soil erosion and the effects of diffuse pollution.
  • Encourage restoration of traditional orchards.
  • Restore and manage pollard trees.
  • Protect the consistent pattern of enclosures and surviving strip and open fields.
  • Restore remaining coppice woodlands around the vale edge.
  • Enhance the function of habitats in supporting the wider ecological network.