The best of Dorset in words and pictures

Twelve months in North Dorset

David Hansford captures the rural splendour of the north of Dorset in a picture for each month of the year

Shot on a crisp New Year's day, the first two hills moving upwards from the bottom left are Fontmell Down and Hambledon Hill, with Bulbarrow and Ibberton beyond and as one's eyeline continues to travel towards the south-west, two more ranges of hills can clearly be seen

Covering an area of over 370 square miles, but with a population of under 90,000, the rural northern and eastern parts of the county are a photographer’s dream. With the predominance of green grass, rolling hills, of pasture and arable land, and boasting some of the best views in Britain, this part of Dorset may be less favoured with visitors than Purbeck, the coast and West Dorset, but for a photographer it presents a tremendous wealth of opportunities.

Between the lower and higher Blandford roads from Shaftesbury sits Melbury Mill, its pond slightly ruffled by the February wind

From Ashmore and the Cranborne Chase in the east, to Stalbridge in the west, with the Blackmore Vale and Stour valley, the chalk downs around Shaftesbury, the hill forts of Hod and Hambledon and the Dorset Cursus, rural North Dorset has everything…, but the sea.

Poplar trees by the crystal-clear waters of the River Allen at Wimborne St Giles, get ready to burst forth into life in early March

David Hansford was educated in Weymouth and then Dorchester, and now lives in Gillingham, North Dorset. An annual exhibition displaying prints of his work has been held in Shaftesbury for some years and he has established a studio and gallery – the Shearstock Gallery, near Gillingham, which is open to visitors by appointment.
His work can be seen online at and he can be contacted by email on or by phone on 01747 831082.

South-east of Sixpenny Handley, Wyke Down is home to burial mounds as well as the more modern face of the English countryside: fields of rape. This crop and barn were shot in mid-April


The area from Stubhampton up to Chettle and Tollard Royal is peppered with green tunnels, beautifully cropped fields with sheep and a succession of tree-lined roads, perfect for pottering along in the May sunshine


The Blackmore Vale, with a stunning sky, captured on the cusp of spring turning to summer in June


Just behind the point of shooting is where the River Lyddon joins the Stour at Kings Mill (between Stalbridge and Marnhull) and captured at the height of summer


A breezy August day on Cranborne Chase, with just a few buildings dotted around the otherwise wholly rural scene


Often described as the prettiest valley in Dorset, Longcombe Bottom is showing to its best advantage on a sunny September day


The village of Fontmell Magna (centre of image), although bisected by the A350, disappears into the rural environment in this October shot


Sheltered from the worst excesses of the wind, Melbury Wood has managed to keep much of its autumn colours beyond Armistice Day


As Dorset's highest village, Ashmore is, like Shaftesbury, 'an overcoat colder' than nearby villages. This early December shot makes one glad to be indoors.


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