Reserve focus: Fontmell and Melbury Downs, Dorset
This year marks the 150th anniversary of Thomas Hardy’s first published work. Today, the Dorset landscape that the novelist and poet so loved can be admired from a reserve, rich in wildlife, that was acquired in his memory.
Think of Dorset and most people will conjure up images of its glorious coast, or perhaps the changing landscape of the Purbecks, or the heaths around Poole Harbour, but there is another aspect to the county that is often missed. In the north is the Blackmore Vale, an intricate clay vale between low limestone ridges created by the River Stour and its tributaries, apparently lost amid a maze of small fields and high, treed hedges, so dense in places that it looks more like a woodland with a series of rectangular glades.