The Blackdown Hills are best known for the dramatic, steep, wooded scarp face they present to the north. To the south the land dips away gently as a plateau, deeply dissected by valleys. On top of the plateau there are wide open windswept spaces; in the valleys nestle villages and hamlets surrounded by ancient and intricate patterns of small enclosed fields and a maze of winding high-hedged lanes.
As part of the only extensive outcrop of Upper Greensand in the region, the geology of the Blackdown Hills is unique in Britain. Not only giving rise to the area’s distinctive topography, the underlying non-calcareous rock has created a notably diverse pattern of plant communities.
The isolated villages and springline farmsteads retain a quiet rustic charm and, using local building material - chertstone, cob and thatch - many of the buildings are of considerable architectural merit with great appeal in their mix of styles. A number of important archaeological sites add richness to the landscape, from high wooded promontories such as the great earthworks of Iron Age Hembury fort to the recently discovered evidence of Roman iron smelting.
Above all, however, what makes the Blackdown Hills special is the unspoilt rural character of the "ordinary" landscape. Farming, largely dairying, has retained many traditional practices. The area remains sparsely populated and there are no towns within the AONB.