Farming & Land Management

77% of the Dorset AONB is farmland and 11% is woodland, and it's largely the history of farming and forestry that has shaped and maintained this beautiful landscape. 

Farm types are as varied as the landscape, reflecting the different soil types and terrain. The best agricultural land in the AONB is in the Brit Valley near Bridport which supports horticulture, important for local markets as well as sales out of the area.  However, the Grade 1 soils cover a mere 715 hectares or less than 1% of the AONB. 

The majority of farming and forestry on less productive soils.  Sheep and cattle grazing is usual for the steepest and/or wettest areas, as well as the very infertile heathlands, where forestry also dominates.  Grazing these areas is essential to maintain their wildlife, and farmers of this land are often eligible for environmental grants as reward for maintaining this resource. 

Dairy farming is common where the land is more fertile and easily cultivated, as is arable farming.   25,563 hectares or just under a quarter of the AONB is arable; wheat and barley are the main crops.

There are a number of orchards (many for cider) and an increasing area planted to vines - perhaps Dorset will be a famous wine area before long!

Farming patterns change according to markets and policy.  With an ageing farming population and a lack of new entrants, the future of farming in Dorset is unclear.  This is a concern for the landscape: the traditional farming techniques that are currently practiced are an essential part of the AONB's natural beauty.

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