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Dorset (or archaically, Dorsetshire), is a county in South West England on the English Channel coast. The county town is Dorchester which is situated in the south. The Hampshire towns of Bournemouth and Christchurch joined the county with the reorganisation of local government in 1974. The ceremonial county comprises the area covered by the non-metropolitan county, which is governed by Dorset County Council, together with the unitary authorities of Poole and Bournemouth. Dorset is an average sized county with an area of 2,653 square kilometres (1,024 sq mi); it borders Devon to the west, Somerset to the north-west, Wiltshire to the north-east, and Hampshire to the east. Around half of Dorset's population lives in the South East Dorset conurbation. The rest of the county is largely rural with a low population density.

The county has a long history of human settlement and some notable archaeology, including the hill forts of Maiden Castle and Hod Hill. A large defensive ditch, Bokerley Dyke, delayed the Saxon conquest of Dorset for up to 150 years. In 1348 the black death came ashore at Melcombe Regis and subsequently spread throughout England, killing a third of the population. Dorset has seen much civil unrest: the first trade union was formed by farm labourers from Tolpuddle in 1834, the Glorious Revolution was instigated in an ice-house at Charborough Park, and the Duke of Monmouth and his rebels landed at Lyme Regis. During the English Civil War (16421651) angry yokels fought with Cromwell's forces near Shaftesbury. The naval base at Portland has had a pivotal role in the nation's defence for many years, and along with Weymouth and Poole was one of the main embarkation points on D-Day.

Initially agricultural, tourism is now the primary industry, with the county receiving 18 million visitors a year. Over half the county is designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Dorset is famous for the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site, which features landforms such as Lulworth Cove, the Isle of Portland, Chesil Beach and Durdle Door, as well as the holiday resorts of Bournemouth, Poole, Weymouth, Swanage, and Lyme Regis. Dorset's three large ports at Poole, Weymouth and Portland, and its international airport at Hurn, play an important part in the local economy, generating a substantial amount of international trade and tourism. Dorset is the birthplace and principal setting of the novels of Thomas Hardy, who was born in the county, and William Barnes, whose poetry celebrates and preserves the ancient Dorset dialect.
Location of Dorset Bordering Counties
This article, the flag and county map are licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dorset