This section of the page features an image gallery, so if you're using a screen reader you may wish to jump to the main content.

Open expanses of flowery downland and far-reaching views

This area of natural beauty was bought in memory of Thomas Hardy, to protect the landscape in which his novels are set. Fontmell Down and Harding's Down offer stunning views that stretch for miles across the Blackmore Vale.

From the car park at the top of Spread Eagle Hill, you can embark on many circular walks across the chalk downland. It's a fantastic place to spot butterflies and orchids, which thrive here.

Head north towards Compton Down and Melbury Hill and you will find one of the best displays of glow-worms during June and July (if the weather is good).

Melbury Hill, meanwhile, marks the high point of a spur, offering sweeping views across much of the downs.

The Melbury Beacon is located 863 feet above sea level and reaching it rewards walkers with wonderful views to the north of the Saxon town of Shaftesbury and across to the surrounding counties.

Nearby Melbury Down is a dry valley that cuts the ridge of Cranborne Chase and straddles the counties of Dorset, Hampshire and Wiltshire.

Come and explore

There is so much to see and do at these special sites. From wonderful walks and wildlife spotting (including glow-worms) to 50 things fun, there is more to Fontmell and Melbury than fantastic views.

The risk of ticks

We'd like to make you aware of the presence of ticks at these sites. These tiny creatures lurk in the grassland and attach themselves to passing animals and humans. We'd advise you to read this leaflet from Public Health England so you're aware of the risks.

Walking weather?