River Frome, Dorset

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The River Frome (pronounced /ˈfruːm/) is a river in Dorset in the south of England. At 30 miles (48 km) long it is the major chalkstream in southwest England. It is navigable upstream from Poole Harbour as far as the town of Wareham.



The river rises in the Dorset Downs at Evershot, passes through Maiden Newton, Dorchester, West Stafford and Woodsford. At Wareham it and the River Piddle, also known as the River Trent, flow into Poole Harbour via the Wareham Channel. The catchment area is 181 square miles (454 km²) map, approximately one sixth of the county.

East of Dorchester the river runs through unresistant sands, clays and gravels, which would have originally been capped by chalk which is still extant in the Dorset Downs to the north and Purbeck Hills to the south. The valley has wide flood plains and marshes and gave the name to the Durotriges, water dwellers, the Celtic tribe of Dorset. The river forms a wide, shallow ria at its estuary, Poole Harbour.

Prior to the end of the last ice age the Purbeck Hills were continuous with the Isle of Wight and the Frome would have continued east through what is now Poole Harbour and Poole Bay, into The Solent, collecting the Stour, Beaulieu, Test and Itchen, before flowing into the Channel east of what is now the Isle of Wight.


The Romans built a 9 km aqueduct to supply their new town of Durnovaria (Dorchester); it started near the modern-day Littlewood Farm, Frampton, using a stream running from Compton Valence, and closely follows the contours of the chalk bluff to the southwest of the River Frome. Some traces of the aqueduct terrace can still be seen at Bradford Peverell and on the Dorchester by-pass. It has been calculated that water would have reached Dorchester at the rate of 13 million gallons per day.

The Danes made frequent raids up the river. The town walls at Wareham were built in 876AD, possibly by Alfred the Great, to defend the town against this threat.

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