This is Tess Country

The Blackmore Vale is described in the book of the ‘Hardy Way’ as ‘above all, this is Tess country’. 

In Tess of the D’Urbervilles, Hardy describes the vale from the North Dorset Downs:

This fertile and sheltered tract of country, in which the fields are never brown and the springs never dry. Here in the valley, the world seems to be constructed upon a smaller and more delicate scale’.

Hardy recalls that in former times the Vale was known as The Forest of the White Hart from a legend that in the thirteenth century a beautiful white hart was killed against Henry V111’s wishes and a heavy fine imposed upon the offender.

British Solar Renewables (BSR) Energy have submitted screening applications for a 188 acre Solar Park on farmland between Mappowder, Hazelbury Bryan and Pulham and it is likely that a full application will be submitted in December.  This industrial sized Solar Park will be highly visible from many view points on the North Downs including Woolland Hill carpark and indeed most of the The Wessex Ridgeway  between the B3143 and Okeford Hill.  All of these are within the Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty with views much loved by locals and visitors to the area alike. A report commissioned by Dorset County Council in 2016 stated: the environment is Dorset’s greatest economic asset.

This giant solar park (one mile from north to south) will also be seen from the ancient monuments of Dungeon Hill Fort and Rawlsbury Camp and from local footpaths, one of which actually runs through the site. The Hardy Way footpath will overlook the site as it descends from Wonston towards Mappowder.

The landscape of the proposed park is largely medium sized arable fields bounded by ancient hedgerows with field oaks running down to the River Lydden, a haven for otters, kingfisher, heron, barn owls and other wild fowl. BSR’s own environmental consultant describes it as A unique mosaic of woods, straight hedgerows and grassland fields ‘dotted’ with distinctive mature hedgerow Oaks. The site comes within 100m of the Lydden and when the river is in flood, it overreaches the boundary.  There is concern that run-off from the solar panels will exacerbate seasonal flooding of the Lydden at the bridge near Kings Stag and at Lydden House.

BSR’s environmental statement shows a map confirming that one of the included fields has a site of archaeological importance including a medieval field system and their Heritage Consultant states:

On the basis of the available information, there is a potential for the presence of archaeological remains within the site, largely associated with medieval agricultural landuse, but remains from other periods cannot be entirely ruled out

There have been many Roman archaeological finds in the surrounding area and an important medieval hoard of 100 gold coins was discovered within a mile at nearby Grange Farm, Pulham in 1983.

Catherine 2020

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