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THE RIVER

The River Stour is the longest river in Dorset.  It rises at the lakes at Stour Head in Wiltshire but most of its course is within the boundaries of Dorset. It is sometimes called the Dorset Stour to distinguish it from other rivers of the same name in Kent, Suffolk and the Midlands. The Dorset Stour is 61 miles long and drains into the English Channel. The Stour is slow moving, with many of different fish species - barbel, bream, chub, dace, grayling, perch, pike, roach, rudd, salmon, tench & trout including eels which all provide food for the many resident otters.  It is a popular place to see otters as it has lots of streams and tributaries running into it and old hollow trees provide places of shelter. Otters are very territorial, with one male dominating at least a 25 mile stretch, so the length of the river makes it ideal to accommodate all the otters.

 

The Stour Valley Way is a designated long-distance footpath that follows almost all of the course of the river.  For many miles the river is also followed by the route of the now disused Somerset and Dorset Joint Railway, The North Dorset Trailway

which bridges the river four times in a 9-mile stretch between Sturminster Newton and Blandford Forum.

Much of the river's course is across clay soil, the river's waterlevel varies greatly.  In summer, low water level makes the river a diverse and important habitat, supporting many rare plans; whereas in winter, the river often floods, and is therefore boarded by fertile flood plains.

The estate owns 3 water mills which sit on the banks of their 8 miles stretch of the Stour.

  • Cutt Mill is sadly derelict after a fire in 2003 but is a beauty spot nonetheless.

  • Fiddleford Mill is the site for the estate's hyrdropower turbine, an Archimedean Screw Turbine which was installed in 2013 and is used to generate a local electricity supply.

There has been a mill at Fiddleford for nearly a thousand years. The first reference to a mill was in William the Conquerers Domesday book of 1087. At that time it is believed that the mill was actually on the site now occupied by the 14th century manor house, Fiddleford Manor. During the latter part of the 18th and early part of the 19th centuries, Fiddleford mill, was used to store contraband. This was shipped up river from the coast. No doubt, much of the French brandy, wine, silk and cloth smuggled ashore at Hengistbury Head and Stanpit Marsh found its way up the river to Fiddleford Mill. From here it would have been quietly distributed around the local area. The current mill was in use from the 13th century up to the end of the 20th century.

Sadly we do not permit kayaks, paddle-boards or canoes on the river.  Narrow points with the mills make it too dangerous. Fishing on the river is very popular but only by prior permission of the estate and at particular points of the river's course, in order to control and protect all parties enjoying the area. To obtain a licence to fish application must be made to Sturminster & Hinton Angling Association.