FIVE beauty spots in Dorset have been recognised as being among the best in the country as part of a national award scheme.

Durlston Country Park in Swanage, Thorncombe Woods near Dorchester, and the Milldown and Stour Meadows in Blandford, have been recognised by the Green Flag Award Scheme, which is the mark of a quality park or green space.

Avon Heath Country Park, near Ringwood, has also been given the award.

From the cliff-top nature reserve, teeming with bird life at Durlston, the historic Thorncombe Woods – a magical pocket of mixed woodland and heath which is listed on the Ancient Woodland Inventory and is Thomas Hardy’s birthplace - or Stour Meadows where otters are regularly seen frolicking in the river, each of the parks and open spaces offer visitors a totally different experience.

The Green Flag Award scheme, managed by environmental charity Keep Britain Tidy under licence from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, recognises and rewards well-managed parks and green spaces.

Commenting on Dorset’s success, Keep Britain Tidy Chief Executive Allison Ogden-Newton OBE said: “This year, more than ever, our parks and green spaces have been a lifeline and we know that millions of people have used them to relax, meet friends, exercise or simply escape for a short time.

“It is testament to the incredible dedication and hard work of Dorset parks staff and volunteers that, despite the challenges of this year, Dorset’s parks have achieved the highest international standards demanded by the Green Flag Award.”

This international award, is a sign to the public that the space has the highest possible environmental standards, is beautifully maintained and has excellent visitor facilities.

Councillor Ray Bryan, Portfolio Holder for Highways, Travel and Environment, said: “This year particularly we have been reminded how important our Greenspaces are for health and well-being, when other activities have been curtailed. We are incredibly fortunate to have such high-quality greenspaces to visit.

“Well done to all the employees who helped achieve these high standards”.