Blandford Forum

Blandford Forum (often known as just “Blandford”) is a nice little market town in Dorset, England.  Although the town itself is nice enough, the real treat here is the stretch of the river Stour that runs roughly parallel to the main high street known as East Street.

What wildlife can I see?

Otters! We first went to Blandford because we saw a post on a website from a few years ago saying that you can see otters there. We were more than a little sceptical as the river is very close to the town centre and the park that it runs through is frequently used by dog-walkers, joggers and everyone else. There is also a fairly large brewery close to the river.

On our first visit we were chatting to some local people (who also had a little dog barking away) with our backs to the river. We turned around to find this otter, staring back up at us from the river. During the rest of the day, we had numerous sightings of otters, all within broad daylight. You don’t have to be up a the crack of dawn or at sunset to see them here.

This stretch of river is also great for seeing kingfishers. You can go to remote places and spend hours in a hide hoping to catch a glimpse of a kingfisher, but every time we’ve been to Blandford we’ve seen many, perched looking for food, darting over the river and catching fish.

Also spotted along this little stretch of river are Little Egrets and Grey Heron, so you can see some really great stuff for very little effort here.

How to get there

We’ve always driven to Blandford from our home in South London, there is car parking at either end of the town at the Morrison and M&S Food supermarkets. It is also from these car parks that you cross the footbridges that take you to the prime river area. You can spot otters all the way from the weir near the Mortain footbridge in the east (round the back of Morrisons) to the Preetz footbridge (round the back of M&S) in the west. There are also great spots further to the west of the Preetz bridge.

There are wooden benches at points along the river which make convenient spots to stop, wait and watch.

Where to stay

We often visit on day trips to, so don’t often stay over, but there are a few good hotels and B&Bs in the area. The one time we did sleep over, we stayed in a lovely B&B called Number 14. Its very cosy, with a great home-cooked breakfast and just a couple of minutes walk from the Preetz footbridge and those otters!

Where to eat

Again, we don’t normally stay over, so most of our eating experience is at lunch time or for (typically English) afternoon tea. Our go to place is Beatons Tea Rooms and Book Shop Its a charming place with great tea and cake, but also does lunches and afternoon tea.

Also, with those benches by the river, it might be an idea to take packed lunch and a thermos of tea/coffee to keep you going whilst watching the wildlife.

We’ve hear the Namaste Ghurka restaurant is also very good, but the one time we tried to go it was fully booked!