Stour Valley Pasture

The Stour Valley Pasture is a pastoral landscape dominated by the meandering river Stour set within a wide and settled floodplain.

The Stour Valley Pasture is a pastoral landscape dominated by the meandering river Stour set within a wide and settled floodplain. The area also includes the southern edge of the Iwerne Valley which extends into the Cranborne Chase National Landscape. Although it shares many of the same characteristics as the main part of the Stour Valley, it has a more intimate character. The surrounding chalk Downland towards the Cranborne Chase National Landscape to the east and the North Dorset escarpment to the west create a sense of enclosure to the valley floor pastures. Small blocks of wet woodland along the river provide structure and diversity and a sense of intimacy to this otherwise flat and open landscape. Dense hedgerows with trees, small scale fields and occasional grassland meadows and remnant withy beds along the river give way to nucleated villages and larger blocks of deciduous woodland along the valley sides. Land use becomes more intensive towards Blandford and a significant parkland landscape around Bryanston School provides an attractive edge to the Blandford urban fringe.

  • Meandering river Stour with broad, open floodplain and gentle valley sides
  • Small deciduous wet woodland with ancient woodland flora forming locally prominent landmarks
  • Small scale patchwork of pasture divided by dense species rich hedgerows with hedgerow trees
  • Remnant withy beds, water meadows, mills and weirs
  • Large country houses set in parkland landscapes
  • Great variety of building materials with many prominent country houses and buildings
  • The valley floors typically provide historical transport routes and stone bridges, with a series of linear and nucleated villages of flint and stone, which are of rich historic and built value
  • A sense of enclosure provided by the surrounding upland landscapes, including the landmarks of Hod Hill and Hambledon Hill
  • Strong undeveloped rural character, with traditional agricultural character and dark night skies largely maintained

Land shape and structure

Formed of fluvial deposits and sedimentary rock, the area is a flat-bottomed valley floor with a meandering river and floodplain, cutting through the surrounding the chalk with terracing either side of the river channel.

Soils and vegetation

The river Stour and its floodplain, with its sediment rock type and peaty wet soils support a range of wet woodlands, and wet neutral pastures.

Settlement and land cover

Settlements along the river terraces have a mixed nucleated and linear form. Blandford abuts the edge of the National Landscape and is seen from The Cliff and the bridge over the Stour, near Blandford St Mary. Parkland landscapes and country houses are evident throughout much of the valley with Bryanston and The Cliff providing an impressive backdrop to Blandford set around a significant band of oak, ash and beech woodland. Landcover is largely pastoral with areas of arable along the upper terraces.

Historic character

The area has a prevailing character of relatively modern water meadows with regular enclosures. However, we would expect to find a wealth of as yet unrecorded archaeology in river valleys such as extensive prehistoric activity with well-preserved organic remains providing evidence of environmental change and past exploitation of the river and adjacent areas. Bridges of local stone, manor houses with parkland add to historic character.

Visual character and perceptions

Unified by the river corridor and its patterns of small wooded pasture, it has a natural character emphasised by colourful and textured grasslands and reeds. Key buildings and features form locally prominent landmarks in this sinuous landscape, with open views along the flood plain. Designed parklands add to visual interest.

Strength of character

This is a landscape is judged to have moderate strength of character. The landscape is unified by the repeated occurrence of key features across the valley floor and sides, the settlement patterns, the presence of stream side woodland, and near continuous pastures. However, signage that occurs along the lanes and urban fringe land use particularly around existing settlements weakens the rural and tranquil character. Recent engineering of flood control measures also weakens the natural character.


The area exhibits a diversity of land uses and this reduces the sense of intactness across the valley, particularly along the main transport routes and existing settlements. Hedgerows are largely intact on the valley floor although these become fragmented on the valley sides. There are also a number of over mature and stag headed trees with some wet woodland in need of active management. Smaller settlement and built character are in good condition although the larger developments do impact on the open floodplain and tranquil quality. Overall, landscape condition may be described as moderate and stable.

The overall objective should be to conserve the strong open, undeveloped character and the visual unity of the valley.  Conserve and restore features and the diversity of semi-natural habitats such as wet woodlands pastures, water meadows, and boundary features.

Planning guidelines

  • Encourage use of native planting in any new landscape scheme and consider removal of unsympathetic species, such as poplar screening, that stand out in the landscape.
  • Monitor development around settlements to ensure planting and built form is both sympathetic and complementary to landscape character.
  • Resist development in open locations, which would impinge upon the open and undeveloped character.
  • Restore traditional mills, bridges and farmstead of local stone.
  • 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.
  • Improve recreational links from main urban centres into the surrounding countryside, with the provision of functional greenspace.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Prevent further quarrying in open locations.
  • 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

  • Encourage opportunities for reversion from arable cropping back to pasture on the valley terraces, linking up areas in good condition and enhance management of existing wet pastures.
  • Encourage maintenance of boundaries, particularly along the valley floors.
  • Identify, conserve and restore remnant water meadow systems that are an important historic landscape feature – and consider opportunities for reinstatement of traditional land management practices.
  • Protect watercourses and associated wildlife from soil erosion and the effects of diffuse pollution
  • Consider planting a new generation of floodplain trees to replace those that are becoming over-matured and to replace elms that were lost during the twentieth century.
  • Consider extending wet woodland on the valley floor, particularly around existing settlements.
  • Enhance the function of habitats in supporting the wider ecological network.
  • Minimise small scale incremental change such as signage, fencing or improvements to the road network which could change the peaceful, rural character of the landscape.