The Verwood Area
The heathland settlements
Verwood is on the edge of many things: right on the
boundary between the counties of Dorset and Hampshire; on the edge of the
New Forest (but not part of it); and only just into agriculture because the
land is so poor.
Although divided from the New Forest by the big valley of the River
Avon (the county boundary), the Verwood area is really very similar to the
New Forest. In both cases the geology (clays, gravel and sands) has
produced poor agricultural land.
Verwood is now a town and, in 1996 had 11,000 inhabitants, its own
council and a mayor. Until the 1950s it was a small scattered
settlement on the heathlands. The abrupt changes from heathland to
farmland, or heathland to houses, still remain. In fact it is the only
Dorset parish which is entirely on heathland. In the past it was
surprisingly industrial. Because of the poor soils the small farmers looked
for ways to supplement their income. They used the local clays to make
pottery, brick and tiles, and the woodlands supplied the raw materials for
hurdles, thatching spars and brooms. The heathlands were not good for
farming but they were useful for small industries.