Osmington Ridge and Vale

The Osmington Ridge and Vale landscape is similar in character to the South Dorset Ridge and Vale landscape with the typical series of small limestone ridges and clay vales running east to west and partly enclosed by the South Dorset Escarpment to the north.

The Osmington Ridge and Vale landscape is similar in character to the South Dorset Ridge and Vale landscape with the typical series of small limestone ridges and clay vales running east to west and partly enclosed by the South Dorset Escarpment to the north. Around Osmington the landscape has an enclosed character, with deep valleys of rough pasture, blocks of organic shaped woodland and patches of scrub. Along the shallower slopes and settled vale floors, larger fields of arable use are enclosed by clipped hedgerows and ribbons of hedgerow trees. As with the western side of Weymouth, the land use becomes significantly more intensive towards Weymouth, with horse paddocks, caravan parks along the coastal strip and other urban influences including urban housing development within the character area. Sweeping views of the coast and the dominant Isle of Portland are important visual qualities.

  • Broad pastoral clay vale landscape with small limestone ridges running east to west
  • Occasional exposed, rough coastal grazing marsh with scrub
  • Continuous patchwork of complex regular fields of neutral and acid grasslands becoming larger towards the ridge tops
  • Enclosed by chalk escarpment to the north
  • Mixed boundaries of stone walls and stunted hedges and occasional hedgerow trees
  • Smaller scale landscape towards the east
  • Settlements of limestone located along the Chalk escarpment base and valley floors
  • Sweeping views towards smooth ridge tops, Portland and the coast
  • Small broadleaved woodlands of oak and hazel coppice along slopes and vales
  • Cultural associations due to links with artists such as Constable
  • Undeveloped rural character away from the conurbation and coast

Land shape and structure

Partly enclosed by the South Dorset Escarpment, the land shape is characterised by a series small scale limestone ridges and broad vales running east to west. The small-scale ridges add structure to the otherwise broad scale coastal landscape. The landscape is more intimate around the deeper valleys at Osmington.

Soils and vegetation

The limestone ridges provide thinner soils supporting small areas of rough grassland and bracken whilst the deeper soils of the clay vales support neutral grasses with oak, ash and hazel woodlands.

Settlement and land cover

Rural nucleated settlements made of limestone usually with well-defined edges are found along the vales. Although the east of the area has a rural character, the landscape is subject to a host of urban influences towards Weymouth with several caravan parks and campsites dotted along the coast. Landcover has remained largely pastoral on the higher and steeper ground with mixed arable and pastoral farming with small woodlands along the broad valleys and vales. A trend toward equine-related activity can be observed, particularly in proximity to settlements and in wider locations with relatively good access.

Historic character

Regular enclosures are found throughout the area with some strip fields and medieval enclosures around nucleated settlements.  The area has a long history of settlement. Remains of Roman temples and villas are found in the area with fine manor houses on the lower ground. There is an extensive Bronze Age cemetery site at Rimbury,

Visual character and perceptions

The area has a strong coastal character with sweeping views of the coast from the higher ridges and hills. Along the coast and particularly towards the east, the landscape has a remote feel emphasised by extensive patches of rough coastal grasslands. Further inland, the landscape becomes more intimate, particularly where villages nestle between small scale hills and ridges.

Strength of character

Overall the landscape is judged to have a moderate strength of character, although the portion west of Osmington is regarded as having a moderate-weak strength of character, due to detracting features. Although the sweeping clay vales and ridges with rough grasslands retain a coastal character, a host of urban fringe land uses around the edges of Weymouth detract from the combination of landscape features. This includes urban housing, equine-related activity and a host of recreational and tourism-based land uses with signage and infrastructure. However, east of Osmington the landscape retains a more traditional rural/coastal character.


Due to intensive farming practices and urban fringe land uses, the management of key landscape features has been neglected over time. Towards the coast, small areas rough grasslands are subject to scrub encroachment and a lack of management with dry stone walls in a state of disrepair. Pylons and caravan parks have a major landscape impact along the exposed coastal landscape. Hedgerows around the urban fringe are intensively managed with a lack of hedgerow trees along the vale. Towards the east where development pressures are less and the much of the land is in agricultural management. Overall the landscape is in moderate condition that is stable in the eastern portion and declining in the western portion.

The overall objective should be to reduce the impact of urban fringe land uses through measures such as new woodland planting and greenspace provision, as well as seeking to restore the characteristic grasslands and field boundaries along the coast.


Planning guidelines

  • Conserve the pattern of tight knit nucleated villages and resist encroachment of urban development. 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.
  • Where appropriate, encourage the planting of small-scale community woodlands to reduce visual impact of urban and tourism-related development, taking an integrated approach to increased access, nature conservation and greenspace provision.
  • Conserve and enhance the sweeping views of the coast.
  • Conserve and enhance the open character of coastal roads and viewpoints and conserve characteristic finger posts and furniture.
  • Limit the proliferation of masts and communications infrastructure. Ensure permitted infrastructure meets essential local needs, building the economic resilience of rural communities. Ensure that the site selection process affords significant weight to the conservation of visual amenity and respects heritage assets and their settings.
  • Encourage the under-grounding of small powerlines in open, sensitive locations.
  • Encourage planting and habitat enhancement to reduce the visual impact of caravan parks where the open character is not affected. Resist further expansion of this type of development in open, sensitive locations. 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 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 of local character.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Management guidelines

  • Repair and maintain dry stone walls along the coast and other important boundary features.
  • Encourage grazing on the coast and inland limestone ridges to reduce further scrub encroachment.
  • Manage 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.
  • Enhance the function of habitats in supporting the wider ecological network, where appropriate.
  • Prevent the loss of key landscape features and enhance archaeological features, such as barrows, through low impact grazing.
  • Protect watercourses and associated wildlife from soil erosion and the effects of diffuse pollution.