Upper Frome Valley

In contrast to the Cerne & Sydling Valley and the Piddle Valley, the Upper Frome Valley has a marked difference in landform, geology and settlement pattern.

In contrast to the Cerne & Sydling Valley and the Piddle Valley, the Upper Frome Valley has a marked difference in landform, geology and settlement pattern. The geology is more complex with extensive outcrops of greensand, shaping a more undulating landform and variety of habitats than other chalk valleys. Enclosed by the escarpment to the north, the valley bottoms are wide with gentle slopes and small coombes. Settlement patterns are more scattered with small clustered farmsteads and hamlets, connected by a complex network of intimate winding rural lanes. Woodland cover is more significant with a scattering of small copses, pastures and hedgerow trees along the valley floor. This creates a more intricate and intimate landscape than the more sweeping and open chalk landscapes found to the east. As with other chalk valleys, extensive arable uplands surround these secluded valleys.

  • A series of broad, undulating valleys with associated chalk streams with surrounding expansive open uplands
  • Fine panoramic views afforded by distinct linear ridgelines running through the area, enabling appreciation of the structure of the farmed downland
  • Thin calcareous soils with underlying geology of chalk with outcrops of greensand
  • Shallow valley slopes with patches of acid and neutral grassland and many small broadleaved woodlands and relic hazel coppice
  • Clear chalk streams with floodplains supporting occasional water meadows, wet woodlands, cress beds and rough damp meadows and rush pasture
  • Winding rural lanes with dense hedge banks along the valley floor with a series of scattered clustered and linear villages and hamlets of stone, brick and flint, thatch and cob, which along with parkland landscapes with veteran trees, railings, flint walls and country houses along the valley floors, contribute to the area’s rich historic and built heritage
  • Smaller scale pastures and fields patterns on valley floors with species rich dense hedgerows, small broadleaved woodlands and hedgerow trees
  • Large, straight-sided arable and pastoral fields of late 18th/early 19th century enclosures with trimmed hazel hedgerows, with post & wire on chalk uplands
  • Undeveloped rural character, with a sense of seclusion and tranquility. Modern development and intrusive features have limited impact and the area has largely maintained its dark night skies and traditional character, although modern farming practices and development have affected parts of the area.

Land shape and structure

The upper reaches of the Frome and its tributaries, the River Brook, drain into the River Frome to the south. The narrow valley bottom retains a sense of seclusion defined by the surrounding hollows and coombes rising towards the open uplands. The valley bottoms are particularly enclosed towards the north by a twisting escarpment.

Soils and vegetation

A variety of soils slopes support areas of neutral and acid grasslands and patches of rush pasture and damp meadows. Small broadleaved woodlands and relic hazel coppice are found dotted along the valley sides leading down towards damper pastures along the valley bottom.

Settlement and land cover

Small clustered settlements and farmsteads within valleys are connected by a complex network of winding rural lanes. The western parts of the area have a more rural and remote character than to the east, where commercial and industrial uses around the fringes of Maiden Newton are apparent. As with other character areas within this landscape type, landcover is typically pastoral along the valley floors, with extensive mixed arable and pastoral fields on the surrounding uplands with large oak and ash broadleaved woodlands.

Historic character

The area has a mixed character, predominantly characterised by parliamentary enclosures. Towards the valley floor, water meadows are found with surviving strip fields and open fields. On the upland areas large enclosures are common. Traces of a medieval deer park are found at Rampisham along with a hillfort near Cattistock with occasional barrows on higher ground. The network of field boundaries and footpaths often reflect the tracks, droves and hollow ways that took the livestock to and from the downs in prehistoric times.

Visual character and perceptions

With a complex landform, the dense hedgerows, extensive woodland cover and small-scale pastures defines much of intimate and secluded visual character of the Upper Frome valley. With a strong cultural association of settlement patterns, surrounding small pastures leading up towards the larger scale arable uplands, the area retains a strong sense of rural tradition. However, there is pressure to increase the scale and intensity of farming enterprises. Accommodating such expansion within elevated and visually exposed locations is particularly challenging and there is a risk that the cumulative effects of such growth may erode the undeveloped rural character of the area.

Strength of character

This has a landscape of strong character. The complex and distinctive valley landform evokes a consistent sense of place and visual unity, with distinct and recognisable pattern of features such as grazed valley floor pasture, dense hedgerows, winding lanes broadleaved woodlands and vernacular nucleated villages. There are some forms of farm diversification and coniferous woodland planting that weaken the underlying pastoral character.


Significant areas of semi natural habitat are found within the valley, particularly large areas of broadleaved woodland and neutral grasslands. The valley floor pastures are largely intact with continuous dense and diverse hedgerows. Settlements are largely in good condition although fringe land uses and housing growth around the larger settlements has some negative visual impact. The negative visual impact of the large cluster communications towers at Rampisham Down has been substantially reduced through the removal of most of these. Landscape condition is judged to be good and stable.

The overall management aim should be to conserve the strong pattern of existing features, whilst restoring woodlands and meadows, chalk grasslands and boundary features. To maintain undeveloped rural character, careful consideration should be given to the design of developments such as settlement extensions and large agricultural barns.  Sensitive siting and tailored landscaping measure should be pursued. Indirect effects arising from farm diversification and intensification should be considered, particularly where widespread changes to landscape management may arise.


Planning guidelines

  • Conserve and enhance the distinctive undeveloped character of the open downland landscape and the long ranging views especially from roads, Rights of Ways and key viewpoints.
  • Encourage maintenance and replacement of important boundaries, particularly parkland railings and flint walls, along the valley floors.
  • Conserve the character of rural lanes and features such as finger posts and street furniture. Remove excessive signage and seek alternatives to infrastructure associated with urban development and out of scale traffic management schemes.
  • Conserve the pattern of tight knit villages and views of key landmarks.
  • Ensure farm diversification projects do not have a negative impact of local character
  • Ensure new agricultural dwellings, barns and structures enhance the local character, are located to reduce their impact on open views and 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.
  • Monitor and ensure pylons, masts and other vertical elements are carefully sited and the number restricted to avoid visual clutter and further interruption of the characteristic open views. Encourage the under-grounding of small powerlines in open, sensitive locations.
  • 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.
  • 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 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.
  • 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

  • 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.
  • Conserve and restore winterbourne/chalk streams and associated habitats and features of cultural interest. Ensure monitoring of low flows takes place.
  • Protect watercourses and associated wildlife from soil erosion and the effects of diffuse pollution.
  • Encourage opportunities for enhanced woodland management on the valley sides, especially coppice management.
  • Where important grasslands and views will not be affected, promote the planting of small oak, ash and hazel broadleaved woodlands on gentle slopes and around settlements and farmsteads to increase landscape diversity. New coniferous planting and shelter belts should not be encouraged.
  • Enhance management of existing chalk grasslands and where important woodland edges will not be affected (along the valley floor and settlements), encourage reversion back to chalk grassland where remaining areas could be linked up.
  • Plant new parkland trees (and retain veteran trees for wildlife purposes) and replant new areas of wet woodland along the river.
  • Conserve and restore remnant water meadow systems that are an important historic landscape feature and provide opportunities for supporting traditional land management practices.
  • Enhance the function of habitats in supporting the wider ecological network.