National Character Area 133

Blackmoor Vale and Vale of Wardour - Summary and Headline Statements of Environmental Opportunity


The Blackmore Vale and Vale of Wardour National Character Area (NCA) comprises both the large expanse of lowland clay vale and the Upper Greensand terraces and hills that mark the southern and eastern edges of the NCA, and an area extending northwards from Penselwood around the edge of the Salisbury Plain and West Wiltshire Downs NCA.

The Blackmore Vale, steeped in a long history of pastoral agriculture, is characterised by hedged fields with an abundance of hedgerow trees, many of them veteran. This is productive pastureland that is often waterlogged; it is crossed by streams and several rivers that leave the NCA at all points of the compass.

The elevated, drier and fertile Upper Greensand terraces and hills are characterised by arable agriculture and are host to an impressive series of stately homes with their associated gardens, parks, plantations and woodlands. These areas afford long, wide views over the low-lying clay vale.

Sturminster Newton and Gillingham are the main towns of the Blackmore Vale, while Tisbury serves the Vale of Wardour. Shaftesbury and Wincanton sit on the edge of the area. Rural settlement is mixed, with small villages, hamlets and isolated farmsteads set in landscapes of medieval and later enclosed fields.

The road pattern reflects the difference between areas of small, irregular fields and narrow lanes that are representative of early clearances, and the later, systematic, post-medieval enclosure. More recently the A303 and A30 roads have, in places, been duelled to meet increased traffic volumes.

The Vale of Wardour is distinct in its intense distillation of the character of the whole NCA into a very small area. Here the links between geology and landform are clear, and a suite of disused quarries offer a window into important Jurassic and Cretaceous strata.

The NCA lies partly within the Dorset and the Cranborne Chase and West Wiltshire Downs Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty but much of it has no landscape designation.

Despite the A303 trunk road and six main roads that cross the NCA, and the two sizeable towns, a low level of urbanisation (less than 1 per cent) and the intensely rural nature of the remaining areas lead to an overall sense of remoteness, peace and tranquillity.


Headline Statements of Environmental Opportunity (SEO)

See the Statements of Environmental Opportunity section for more details on the headlines listed below.


Protect, manage and enhance the diverse but coherent pastoral landscape character of the clay vales, limestone ridge and Greensand hills, their semi-natural grasslands and woodland and their characteristic wildlife, and manage the simple patterns of land use maintained by the long history of agriculture.


Work with local people to raise their understanding of the way in which the area’s strong landscape character, sense of place and distinctive wildlife are rooted in the continuity of agricultural land use, strong historic landscape character and legibility of historic features.


Work with the local farming and land management community to maintain the distinctive landscape and natural beauty of the area, enhancing ecosystems and ecosystem services.


Protect, manage and enhance the Vale of Wardour’s highly distinctive relationship between geology, landform and land use. Protect, manage and interpret the suite of national and Local Geological Sites.