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.
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 leaflet for this 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.
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.
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.
The reserve is on Route 2 of the Sustrans National Cycle Network.
The nearest train station is in Upwey.
Bus services run from Upwey along both the A35 (via Dorchester) and the B3157 (via Weymouth). See details on the Traveline SW website.
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.
The nearest toilets and refreshment facilities are located in nearby towns and villages.
A local volunteer group help manage the reserve. See the EuCAN Dorset midweek volunteers website for details if you want to get involved.
To find out more about the reserve, contact site staff on 07899 731404.