This bustling market town sits on either side of the mighty River Stour, Sturminster on the northern bank, and Newton on the other.

Sturminster Mill is one of the most photographed places in Dorset. Once part of a series of flour mills on the Stour, this rare survivor has a fully working water mill that grinds flour which can be bought in the onsite shop. Operated by volunteers from the Sturminster Newton Heritage Trust it celebrated 1,000 years of milling in 2016.

Button and cloth-making was the main economy, alongside a Monday livestock market, until mechanisation saw this fade. ‘Stur’ became an agricultural hub for the Blackmore Vale due to the arrival of the railway in 1863 which transformed its fortunes with trains taking milk from Hardy’s ‘Vale of the Little Dairies’ to London and Bournemouth. Beeching’s cuts saw this cease in 1966.

By the 1950s, the town’s creamery was making many prize-winning cheeses including Double Gloucester, Caerphilly and Cheddar. Before the creamery closed in 2001, it was an early supporter of the award-winning Sturminster Newton Cheese Festival. Started in 1999, it celebrates the town’s dairy heritage on the first weekend in September.

On June 30 1997, the final bell was rung to mark the closing of Sturminster Newton’s cattle market, ending a 700- year tradition of livestock trading in the town. A new cultural and community hub, The Exchange, built on the site of the former livestock market, opened in 2007. This offers a wide range of shows, screenings and live music.

The Sturminster Newton Literary Festival in June draws on the impressive cultural legacy of three notable writers connected with the town: William Barnes, Robert Young and Thomas Hardy (he wrote The Return of the Native at Riverside Villas, rented from Young). The festival also showcases Dorset’s best fiction writers of the 21st century.