Dorset: a rural and coastal county

May . 2016

Introduction to the county of Dorset

Dorset has long been regarded as the epitome of the ideal rural county and when searching for a character country property for sale or rent, it is often the first one that comes to mind. With its slower paced lifestyle, incredibly beautiful and varied scenery, stunning coastline, rich history and literary connections, it really is a very special place. It is not surprising that it has the highest proportion of its land classified as Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Sites of Special Scientific Interest than any county in England.

Dorset shares its borders with four counties; Devon, Somerset, Wiltshire and Hampshire and has a long undulating coastline, much of it designated a World Heritage Site and known as the Jurassic Coast due to its unique geological landforms including Lulworth Cove,  Durdle Door and Chesil Beach.

The inland landscape consists of chalk and limestone ridges such as Cranborne Chase, the Dorset Downs and the Isle of Purbeck interspersed with wide clay vales including the Blackmore Vale and Frome Valley. The southeastern part of the county in contrast is sand and gravel based, giving rise to a heathland habitat with water erosion resulting in the formation of Poole Harbour, the second largest natural harbour in the World.

Half of Dorset’s population of 693,000 live in the large Bournemouth/Poole/ Christchurch urban conurbation but otherwise much of the rest of the county (1,024 sq miles) is distinctly rural and is divided into five districts.

Property and Homes in Dorset

Rural View market cottages and houses for sell and rent in North Dorset. It consists of two areas of rolling downland dissected by the broad valley formed by the River Stour. There are just the four towns; Blandford Forum is perhaps the finest examples of a Georgian market town in the country, Sturminster Newton is known for its annual cheese festival and picturesque water mill; the Saxon hilltop town of Shaftesbury is famous for Gold Hill and Gillingham has many useful facilities.

Living in Dorset

West Dorset is the largest area and is mainly agricultural with lovely unspoilt countryside. The county capital, Dorchester has Roman origins and is closely associated with the author Thomas Hardy, it is also situated near Maiden Castle, the largest hill fort in Britain. The abbey town of Sherborne boasts two castles whilst Bridport used to regularly appear in the cooking programme Riverside Cottage and Lyme Regis is a pretty seaside town on the Devon border.

The seas off the regency seaside town Weymouth and the Isle of Portland are amongst the best in Europe for water sports and were used for the Olympic Sailing Regatta in 2012. Portland stone has been used in the construction of some of most iconic buildings in London including St Pauls Cathedral and Buckingham Palace.

The Isle of Purbeck is actually a hilly peninsula of heathland guarded by the remains of Corfe Castle. Once quarried for its stone and ‘marble’, tourism, farming and oil production are its main industries now with Wytch Farm being the largest on-shore oil field in the UK and Swanage a popular traditional seaside destination.

As with much of the county, East Dorset is principally rural with large tracts of undulating farmland interspersed with pretty villages, much of it being part of the Cranborne Chase Area of Outstanding natural Beauty. Wimborne Minster is the principal town.

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