Kimmeridge Coast

Although the Kimmeridge Coast is not a typical valley profile, the area shares similar landscape characteristics to the Corfe and Bride valleys.

Although the Kimmeridge Coast is not a typical valley profile, the area shares similar landscape characteristics to the Corfe and Bride valleys. An undulating limestone ridge encloses a sweeping clay and limestone landform of coastal grasslands and steep incised valleys. It is an exposed and relatively inaccessible landscape with a dramatic coastline of distinctive, windswept lichen covered limestone headlands and tumbled undercliffs. The deep valleys often contain parkland estates with woodland. The west of the area is strongly influenced by military activity with rough grazed pastures. The landscape becomes more arable towards Kimmeridge. Sparse hedgerows and irregular fields form textured patterns around isolated settlements made from local stone. The coast path provides limited access to this dramatic and complex landscape of panoramic coastal views. There is a gradual transition to the limestone plateau to the east with the limestone ridge forming a sharp contrast to the Corfe Valley.

  • Undulating coast of limestone cliffs and distinctive headlands, providing distinctive features within exception views of the undeveloped coast
  • Large, open coastal grasslands on sweeping clay landform
  • Nationally significant coastal habitat
  • Open landscape with isolated copses and windswept trees
  • Occasional damp grassland habitats
  • Nucleated settlements surrounded by small broadleaved woodland
  • Cultural associations, particularly due to Clavell Tower and the area’s geological interest
  • Stone walls towards the Purbeck Plateau
  • Remote and largely inaccessible
  • Incised valleys of landscaped parklands
  • Mixed regular and irregular enclosures of stunted hedgerows
  • Traces of medieval fields systems
  • Strong undeveloped rural character, with traditional agricultural character and dark night skies largely maintained and a tranquil and character away from the well visited Kimmeridge Bay

Land shape and structure

The area has dramatic coastal slopes and cliffs. Inland, it becomes a broad sweeping landscape with deep incised valleys. The underlying geology of soft Kimmeridge clay is of sedimentary origin and provides a fine collection of Upper Jurassic marine life and fossils.

Soils and vegetation

The area has heavy, poorly drained land with loamy base rich soils. Habitats include neutral damp grasslands and strips of ancient woodland on valley sides.

Settlement and land cover

Settlement is characterised by scattered farms and estates, hidden away in hollows with a limited network of small lanes. Kimmeridge is the only settlement of notable size within the area. Land cover is largely pastoral, particularly along the coast with thinly scattered groups of trees around valley slopes. Towards Kimmeridge, cover becomes more arable. The MOD Ranges retain an undeveloped, pastoral character. Towards the east, the area has a more wooded character around the landscaped parkland at Encombe and Smedmore.

Historic character

The overall historic character appears medieval and later. The area has a mix of planned and irregular enclosures with open fields at the western end.  Areas of prehistoric field systems survive as earthworks. Evidence of prehistoric, particularly Iron Age, and Romano-British occupation and industrial activity has been recorded at a number of locations. Of particular interest is the shale working industry centred on Kimmeridge. Military remains include World War II defensive structures such as pill boxes.

Visual character and perceptions

It is a broad landscape heavily influenced by the coastal landforms and panoramic views. The pattern of incised valleys along the coast with wooded sides provides a sharp contrast to the open mosaic of irregular pastoral fields. The landmark building of Clavell’s Tower is a distinctive focal point in the landscape.

Strength of character

This is a landscape of strong character as a result of the distinctive sweeping landform, sense of visual unity and consistent character throughout. The distinct and recognisable pattern of features of open pastures, undulating cliffs and hidden settlements reinforce the strength of character of this coastal landscape. There are a number of areas where traces of medieval field systems survive on the higher ground particularly around Kimmeridge and South Elliston. Landscaping of parks at Encombe and around Smedmore contribute to the overall strength of character.  There are relatively few detracting features that weaken the character.


Features of prehistoric field systems and parkland landscapes have survived the less intensive agricultural practices on the steep slopes. In terms of land cover and land use there is little evidence of lack of management or underused pockets of land, although hedgerows are gappy in places. Along with a good management of coastal grasslands, some remaining pockets of damp grassland and ancient woodland on the steeper slopes contribute to the overall good ecological condition of the area. The built environment is generally of high quality. There is some evidence of encroachment of arable uses onto landscaped parkland, resulting in the gradual erosion of the historically significant glass and alum works.  The current condition of the landscape is judged to be good and stable.

The overall objective should be to conserve and restore the intimate patterns of grasslands, woodlands and field boundaries, and to conserve the historic character and form of settlements and enhance their interface with the wider countryside.


Planning guidelines

  • Encourage small scale broadleaved planting around existing settlements and farmsteads to reduce the visual impact of development.
  • Conserve the pattern of tight knit nucleated villages, use of local limestones and views of key landmarks such as church spires.
  • 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 farm diversification projects do not have a negative impact of local character.
  • 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.
  • Ensure pylons, masts and other vertical elements are carefully sited and the number restricted to avoid visual clutter and further interruption of important skylines. Promote 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.
  • Conserve the intimate character of rural lanes and open character towards the coast. Remove excessive signage and seek alternatives to infrastructure associated with urban development and out of character traffic management schemes.
  • Reduce the impact of car parks and other visitor-based development through sensitive design.
  • 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 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

  • Restore and enhance the condition of existing small broadleaved woodlands.
  • Consider extending wet woodland on the valley floor, particularly around existing settlements and farmsteads.
  • Encourage low impact grazing and conservation of permanent pastures including calcareous grassland and wet grasslands to protect wildlife and historic features.
  • Enhance 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. Reduce the intensity of farming practices around important sensitive habitats.
  • Encourage maintenance and restoration of boundaries, particularly dense hedgerows and banks along the valley floors and stonewalls towards the higher ground.
  • Protect and enhance watercourses and associated wildlife from soil erosion and the effects of diffuse pollution.
  • Prevent the further loss of key landscape features and enhance archaeological features such as medieval field patterns.
  • Encourage grazing towards the chalk and limestone ridges to reduce scrub encroachment on grasslands.
  • Maintain and enhance the sweeping views of the coast.
  • Enhance the function of habitats in supporting the wider ecological network.