National Character Area 99

Black Mountains and Golden Valley - Key Characteristics

  • Remote, steep-sided plateau of the Black Mountains in the west. Mainly made up of sandstones, the plateau is formed from resistant Old Red Sandstone rocks of the Devonian Senni and Brownstone Formations and rises to an elevation of 700 m, with a dominant pattern of northwest to south-east-oriented ridges and valleys, following the line of the initial erosion of the uplifted and tilted plateau surface.

  • Lower hills in the middle and east of the NCA underlain by less resistant Old Red Sandstone rocks, made up of sandstones and mudstones of the lowest Devonian St Maughans Formation.

  • Wide glacial Golden Valley in the east, underlain by the more easily eroded Upper Silurian Raglan Mudstone Formation and glacial deposits, with high-grade agricultural soils important for commercial farming, largely for animal husbandry with some arable cultivation.

  • Rivers Dore and Monnow, which are the most prominent of the watercourses in the area, flowing from the north-west to the southeast, following the line of the valleys.

  • Well-wooded landscape at 13 per cent of landcover, particularly on the slopes of the eastern and northern hills, and a high proportion of ancient woodland compared with the national average.

  • Transition from agricultural lowlands in the east to high moorland ridge of the Black Mountains in the west, reflecting the underlying geodiversity. Arable fields and pastures of the valley, bounded by low hedgerows with few hedgerow trees, give way to irregular pastures with overgrown hedgerows and abundant hedgerow trees on the valley sides. Fields become larger and more regular, with lower hedgerows further up the slopes before the boundaries stop at the open moorland.

  • Heather moorland, peat deposits, wet flushes, blanket bog and acid grassland, characteristic of the upper slopes and plateau.

  • Unimproved permanent pastures and hay meadows, which harbour uncommon plants such as globe-flower and meadow saffron. Characteristic upland species such as raven, peregrine falcon, merlin and red grouse are present on the plateau near the southerly limits of their range.

  • Border character and a sense of a transitional landscape evident in the mixture of Welsh and English settlement styles and defensive structures such as iron-age hill forts and Norman mottes and castles scattered throughout the area.

  • Scattered hamlets and villages with dispersed farmsteads; the border town of Hay-on-Wye lies on the north-western boundary. Red sandstone and grey limestone are typically found in older buildings.

  • One of the most undisturbed parts of England, with little transport infrastructure and no major roads. High levels of tranquillity can be experienced, particularly in the western uplands. Recreational opportunities including a section of the Offa’s Dyke Path National Trail enables people to enjoy this landscape.