Standing Out in the Landscape

PUBLISHED: 13:49 22 June 2009 | UPDATED: 16:04 20 February 2013

Chairman Tim Frost visiting the drystone wall funded by SDF Woodfuel project at the Kingcombe Centre

Chairman Tim Frost visiting the drystone wall funded by SDF Woodfuel project at the Kingcombe Centre

Join in the celebrations for the golden anniversary of the Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty designation

This month marks the 50th anniversary of the Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty - the designation that recognises Dorset as one of the nation's finest landscapes. The Dorset AONB Partnership is celebrating this golden anniversary with their Love for the Land programme, to give people a flavour of how fantastic the landscape is and what we can do to safeguard its future.

Dorset feels like a very special place. For many people who live here there's a real 'feel good' factor that enriches our day-to-day lives and, for many holidaymakers, an invisible thread that prompts a return visit year after year. Back in 1959, this special place was officially recognised as OUTSTANDING, thanks to legislation created through the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act in 1949. Now, 50 years on, the AONB has benefited from greater protection through further legislation and the creation of a Partnership to champion its future.

What makes Dorset so OUTSTANDING?

The Dorset AONB covers 42% of the county, stretching from Lyme Regis in the west, along the coast to Poole Harbour in the east, and north to Blandford. It is no surprise that the contrast and diversity of the landscape was identified as one of the special qualities - the AONB is really a collection of fine landscapes, from open heaths to rolling chalk hills and intimate vales. There are striking views across this dynamic and complex landscape and still plenty of places that feel tranquil and remote.

The unusually rich nationally and internationally important wildlife was another factor for designation - with 80% of all British butterfly and mammal species and 90% of bird species and some very special sites like the Fleet and Poole Harbour to make Dorset stand out from the rest.

The Dorset AONB provides a 'living textbook' charting the development of millions of years of earth history - the Jurassic Coast is a World Heritage Site for a reason. It is also a historical record of rural England showing layers of human influence on the landscape.

The inspirational nature of the landscape is also considered one of the county's special qualities. Not only has it inspired artists and writers from the past - including Hardy, Fowles, Barnes and Nash - it continues to inspire a rich community of artists in the county and supports a vibrant creative industry.

An OUTSTANDING future for the Dorset landscape?

Thinking ahead to the next 50 years, the pressures of global climate change and the needs of a growing population are bound to have an impact on the things we feel are so special now.

The Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) Partnership was set up to conserve and enhance the area's natural beauty for future generations. The AONB management plan identifies the pressures affecting the area and sets out what needs to be done to address these challenges and keep our landscape special.

Tim Frost, local landowner and Chairman of the Partnership, explains: "The key to our success in facing these pressures is to remember that the landscape is not just a pretty view but a working, productive landscape that we can all benefit from."

Pastures New and Woodlink are both good examples of how the Partnership is working to benefit both the environment and the economy. Woodlink aims to get small woodlands back into management for wildlife and landscape as well as providing a low carbon source of local fuel and more local jobs too.

Local people across the area are getting directly involved in the future of the AONB too - as well as helping the Partnership with projects, they can also develop their own initiatives thanks to the Dorset AONB Sustainable Development Fund. This offers financial support to help transform local ideas into action.

Sarah Bentley, AONB Team Manager, enthuses: "Over the last four years we have given out over £300,000 in grants that have generated over 1.3 million-worth of local action to conserve and enhance the AONB. But it's not just about the money - the ideas have been fantastic, from small water-power and wood-fuel schemes to woodland walks, green buildings, new orchards and reviving craft skills. And they all have one thing in common - people making a real and lasting connection with the landscape around them... long may it continue!"

Join in the 50th anniversary celebrations

Making that real and lasting connection with the landscape can be fun too and the Dorset AONB Partnership is laying on some bite-sized activities for you to explore what makes the AONB special to you, to cultivate your love for the land.

'Love for the Land' events: 13-26 July

Explore what makes the AONB so special - by boat, train, bike and on foot - with activities for all ages.

Full programme and details available from Dorset AONB team and Tourist Information Centres, which will include:

• Local food tasting - taste the Direct from Dorset difference

• Walk through time - along the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site

• Hardy's heaths - explore the heaths that inspired Hardy to put pen to paper

• Plot to plate - pick, cook, eat: the simplicity and freshness of local food

• Local landmarks - how local people make landmarks into local treasures

• Star gazing - discover how tranquillity can make the stars shine brighter

• Forest fun - forest walks and children's art activities in the woods

• Words in the landscape - walk with wordsmiths old and new along the Wessex Ridgeway

• On top of the world - feel-good bike rides around Purbeck and West Dorset

• Rock the boat - a look at the Dorset landscape from the sea

• Living from the land - farm walk and barbeque with successful local farmer and AONB Partnership member

'Love for the Land' exhibition and photographic competition

Photographer Sue Macpherson ARPS gives her impressions of what makes the AONB landscape so special. This free exhibition of photos looks at the shapes and textures that helped bring the landscape alive for this talented local photographer.

Weymouth Library 8-27 June

Bridport Arts Centre caf

4 August - 5 September

The Exchange, Sturminster Newton

6 September - 4 October

'Love for the Land photographic competition

We want to capture what you think makes the Dorset landscape so OUTSTANDING in 2009. This competition, for all ages, will be launched at the photographic exhibition when it arrives in Bridport on 5 August and full details will be available at the exhibition or from Dorset AONB team.

For further information contact the Dorset AONB team on (01305 756782), visit or e-mail

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