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Fontmell and Melbury Downs in Dorset, England - July 2011 | by SaffyH
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Fontmell and Melbury Downs in Dorset, England - July 2011

One of the most serene places I have visited on my trip in Dorset. I came up half an hour before sunset. Birds such as Chiffchaff and Song Thrush were singing. I wish I came earlier but maybe the place looked its best before sunset as the last of the sun' rays added a golden touch to the green grass.


Fontmell and Melbury Downs

North West Dorset, just south of Shaftesbury


Open expanses of flowery downland, excellent butterfly populations and breathtaking views


Don't miss

Bought in memory of Thomas Hardy, to protect the landscape in which his novels are set

Chalk grassland and scrub habitats with many orchids, including Early Purple, Frog and Bee orchid

Great location for butterflies, moths and glow-worms


Fontmell Down and Harding's Down


Savour the stunning views that stretch for miles across the Blackmore Vale and explore the many circular walks that start from the car park at the top of Spread Eagle Hill. During the summer months it is a fantastic place to spot butterflies and plants which thrive on the chalk downland. ST886186


Compton Down and Melbury Hill South


Here you will find one of the best displays of glow-worms during June and July, if the weather is good. It also attracts a wealth of butterflies such as Chalkhill Blue, Adonis Blue and Meadow Brown. Melbury Hill marks the high point of a spur, offering sweeping views across much of the downs. ST879192


Melbury Beacon


At 863 feet above sea level, there are wonderful views to the north of the Saxon town of Shaftesbury and across to the surrounding counties. ST873197


Melbury Down


This stunning meandering dry valley cuts the ridge of Cranborne Chase, which straddles the counties of Dorset, Hampshire and Wiltshire. The fine chalk grassland is interrupted by a narrow band of flint scree, which unusually supports acid-loving heathers. ST892190


Win Green


The highest point in Cranborne Chase with fine views of rolling downland in all directions. Crowned by a clump of trees growing on a Bronze Age bowl barrow (a mound of earth and stones covering a grave) Win Green forms a prominent landmark. ST922204


Get in touch

Wiltshire Countryside Office

West Kennett Farm

West Kennett

Wiltshire SN8 1QF


01672 539167 (General enquiries)







WCs (Not NT) for customers of the Compton Abbas Airfield restaurant



Dogs welcome under close control, as livestock graze the downs. Please dispose of dog mess responsibly.


Picnic areas

There are some great places to enjoy a picnic, but please help us to keep this area special by taking your rubbish home with you.


Eating and shopping

Restaurant at Compton Abbas Airfield (not NT).


Public houses

There is a pub in the nearby village of Fontmell Magna.



We are able to provide a limited number of guided walks with the warden throughout the year for groups. Please contact us for more information.


Getting there


By foot

A series of bridleways and footpaths lead onto the downs from the local villages of Melbury Abbas, Compton Abbas and Fontmell Magna


By bike

The North Dorset Cycleway (National Cycle Network Regional Route 41) is a 73 mile route along quiet country lanes and villages. It passes through Shaftesbury and runs just south of the estate, through the village of Fontmell Magna.


By bus

From Shaftesbury take the Wilts & Dorset service 182, Monday-Saturday, stopping at Compton Abbas and Fontmell Magna.


See Transport Direct for more travel information.


By train

Gillingham 9 miles from Fontmell car park.


By road

From Shaftesbury head south on B3081 and follow signs to Melbury Abbas. There is a car park on the right at the top of Spread Eagle Hill, just before the left turn to Compton Abbas Airfield.


Ordnance Survey maps

Explorer 118

Landranger 183




Mobility information



The small car parking area at Spread Eagle Hill provides level access onto the downs. From here there are beautiful views over Compton Abbas and beyond.



Accessible WCs are available for customers of the Compton Abbas Airfield restaurant.


Pathways and open space

The downs comprise of open grassland with some well-used routes. There are areas of steep sloping downland, which will become muddy and slippery after wet weather.


All-ability trails

At Win Green a route leading to the topograph and trig point is accessible along flat grassland. Fontmell Down has a circular route along fairly level grassy paths, starting from the car park. Both of these routes are accessible for most wheelchair users and pushchairs.


Seating, rest points and shelter

There are benches at Win Green.


Sensory highlights


Glow worms are plentiful in summer; the best time to spot them is at night when the female glow worms light up to attract the males.


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Taken on January 4, 2011