In Explore

Cranborne Chase is a remarkably special place. It is a diverse landscape offering areas of rolling chalk grassland, ancient woodlands, chalk escarpments, downland hillsides and chalk river valleys each with a distinct and recognisable character. The landscapes of this AONB today, as they were in the past, are extraordinarily rich and evoke musings of a time gone by.

Thanks to a £1.68million grant from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, this largely forgotten ancient landscape will be brought back to life through the Cranborne Chase and Chalke Valley Landscape Partnership project.

During this exciting 5 year project, hidden treasures will be revealed using ground-breaking technology to turn back the clock, uncovering the largest Neolithic monument in Britain, the Dorset Cursus, and the project will restore and protect some internationally important habitats and historic sites.

Fontmell Down credit Helen Gibson

A selection of the project highlights include:

Nurturing Nature

A biodiversity programme which aims to improve 375ha of habitat for species including Adonis blue butterflies, farmland birds including yellow hammer and corn bunting and mammals such as water voles, with 3,400 volunteer days on offer involving practical training.

Adonis Blue copyright Peter Eeles

Crystal Clear Ebble

This project aims to protect, restore and improve 22km of the important Ebble chalk river to tackle run off and alien species.

15km of banks will be better managed, 12 species aided, 60 projects will tackle run-off and alien species as a result of action by landowners, communities, volunteers and grants.

An animated film will be made by young people in the valley to celebrate how special the river is, what is being done to improve and care for it. 

Wonderful Woodlands

At least 115ha of the AONB woodland will be created, brought back into management or improved for biodiversity and landscape value and 90 people are to be trained in key woodland skills & crafts.

70 young people who have little contact with the landscape on their doorstep will be helped to grow their confidence through the ‘Woodland Wild things’ programme.

Girl with mushroom

Greater Grazing 

This scheme will transform grazing on Martin Down, the 3rd largest unbroken chalk grassland in the UK. 380 hectares of chalk grassland will be improved or safeguard to benefit 15 key species and 10 ancient monuments.

Starry, Starry Nights

Cranborne Chase AONB is aiming to join an exclusive club of protected areas worldwide to gain international recognition for its dark skies and become an International Dark Sky Reserve.

To help reach this goal, baseline monitoring of dark skies will be carried out, a recruitment and training programme will result in at least 12 new Dark Sky champions working to influence lighting in their communities and 4 new Dark Sky event leaders will be assigned to run starry night sessions and walks.

A pop-up planetarium, plus training and resources for local tourism businesses will promote the quality of dark skies in the area.

Champions for the Past

An extensive archaeological programme to engage people in the towns around the AONB.

More than 4,000 children will receive ‘dig boxes’, there will be ‘Horrible History’ style roadshows and an app to help bring the hidden landscape to life.

Bronze Age Burial at Down Farm

Ancient Ways

This access project will improve or restore 110km of rights of way with newly promoted walks, cycle rides and walk leader training and a new online resource, 'Active Outdoors' will help individuals suffering from rural isolation find others who may be prepared to share the countryside with them.

Community Arts

To include writing competitions, theatrical productions and an oral history project to capture stories of traditional land management, such as water meadow management, coppicing or hurdle making.

Roman Rally

For anyone wanting to get involved in volunteering or to receive project updates, sign up to the e-newsletter at by clicking on the ‘Get Involved’ link on the home page or follow ‘Cranbornechaseaonb’ on Facebook, ‘Cranborne.ChaseAONB’ on Instagram and @cranbornechase on Twitter.




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