Natural England - Valley of Stones NNR

Valley of Stones NNR

The Valley of Stones NNR derives its name from the impressive 'train' of boulders tumbling down the slope and floor of the dry chalk valley.

Valley of Stones NNR

County: Dorset

Main habitats: Lowland grassland

Why visit: The Valley of Stones is considered to have one of the finest examples of a Sarsen stone boulder train in Great Britain. Freeze/thaw conditions at end of the last ice age caused sandstone on top of nearby chalk hilltops to fragment and slump downhill. There is evidence that the site was used as an ancient 'quarry' with stones being taken from the area for use at other local megalithic sites. 

The stones are set within a wider landscape of dry valleys and slopes of upper chalk that include extensive areas of fine calcareous grassland that is rich in butterflies and wild flowers.

Within the reserve, well preserved medieval field patterns can be seen on some of the steep sides of the dry valleys and slopes of upper chalk.

Star species: The southernmost dry chalk valley contains an excellent example of a Sarsen blockstream or ‘valley train’ which also help support a rich lichen and bryophyte flora.

The surrounding areas of calcareous grassland support many species of butterfly and wild flowers including clustered bellflower and autumn gentian. Colonies of the iridescent adonis blue butterfly can be found on the steep south facing grassland slopes in association with horseshoe vetch, the larval foodplant of this spectacular butterfly.

There is an information leafletexternal link for this reserve

Managing the reserve

Longhorn cattle are grazed throughout the year to control vigorous grasses and keep the grassland sward open to benefit wild flowers and insects. A small amount of gorse scrub on the eastern part of the site is cut and cleared every year on rotation to prevent this invasive shrub becoming too dominant. Some traditional hedgelaying is carried out each year.

Seasonal highlights

The best time to visit is in the spring and summer. The adonis blue butterfly has two broods and may be seen in May and June, or again later in August.

How to get there

We encourage the use of sustainable transport whenever possible.

The Valley of Stones is situated six miles south west of Dorchester, near the village of Littlebredy.

By cycle

The reserve is on Route 2external link of the Sustrans National Cycle Network.

By train

The nearest train station is in Upweyexternal link.

By bus

Bus services run from Upwey along both the A35 (via Dorchester) and the B3157 (via Weymouth). See details on the Traveline SWexternal link website.

By car

Access to the reserve is by minor roads from the A35 and B3157. The nearest car park is located 0.5 miles from the site, near the National Trust's Hardy Monument.

On foot

The Valley of Stones is near to the Jubilee Trailexternal link, the Macmillan Wayexternal link and close to the South West Coastal Pathexternal link.

Visiting the reserve

The nearest toilets and refreshment facilities are located in nearby towns and villages.

Want to get involved?

A local volunteer group help manage the reserve. See the EuCAN Dorset midweek volunteersexternal link website for details if you want to get involved.

Further information

To find out more about the reserve, contact site staff on 07899 731404.