Best things about living in the Blackmore Vale

© David Hansford / Alamy

© David Hansford / Alamy - Credit: Alamy

Picturesque and fertile the Blackmore Vale provided the inspiration for Thomas Hardy’s ‘Vale of Little Dairies’. It is also home to some of Dorset’s most charming villages

Immortalised in Thomas Hardy’s novel Tess of the D’Urbervilles, the Blackmore Vale forms part of the Stour Valley, which in turn is part of the Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

As well as Dorset, the Vale also encompasses some of Somerset and Wiltshire. The local road network provides easy access to Bath, Blandford, Salisbury, Sherborne and Warminster, as well London via the A303/M3 and the South Coast. Both Tisbury and Gillingham at the heart of the Vale have train stations with mainline connection to London Waterloo.

The towns of Gillingham and Sturminster Newton are the largest settlements in the Vale with populations of 11,756 and 4,292 respectively (2011 census). Gillingham (pronounced with a hard ‘G’) is five miles north-west of Shaftesbury and is Dorset’s most northerly town. It is popular with families as it is home to eight primary schools and one secondary school.

The majority of house sales in Gillingham last year involved detached properties which sold for an average of £235,486. Terraced properties sold for an average price of £160,558, while semi-detached properties fetched £181,460. The overall average price of £185,094 was cheaper than nearby Shaftesbury (£227,346). During the last year, sold prices in Gillingham were 4% down on the previous year.

Sturminster Newton meanwhile had an average sale price of £249,271 in 2014. Again, detached properties featured most heavily in sales, fetching an average price of £309,690. Terraced properties sold for an average price of £174,921, while semi-detached properties fetched £242,447. Sturminster Newton’s overall average sale price was £249,271 – up 8% up on 2013.

Marnhull is the location that featured most prominently in Tess of the d’Urbervilles. Hardy called the village ‘Marlott’ and The Crown Inn, which still exists today, provided the inspiration for The Pure Drop. The village embraces a mix of architectural styles, from post-war developments to Tudor houses and is well served by two primary schools, two pubs, a GP surgery, village hall and local shops. During the last year, sold prices in the village (average of £298,280) were 3% up on the previous year.

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Other settlements within the Dorset area of Blackmore Vale include the villages of Belchalwell, Child Okeford, East Stour, Hazelbury Bryan, Hinton St Mary, Okeford Fitzpaine, Shillingstone, Stalbridge, Stour Provost, Todber and West Stour.

House price information from



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