National Character Area 34

Bowland Fells - Key Facts & Data

Landscape and nature conservation designations section contains a map

Note that numbers and figures in the body of the text are based on the 2014 profiles, unless otherwise stated. The maps contain live frequently updated datasets.

Over 99 per cent (37,353 ha) of the NCA falls within the Forest of Bowland Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). The Forest of Bowland AONB Management Plan provides a policy framework and identifies a 5-year programme of actions (April 2009 – March 2014) to help guide the work of the AONB partnership organisations towards achieving the purpose of this plan – to conserve and enhance the natural and cultural beauty of the Forest of Bowland landscape (Natural England, 2011).

Designated nature conservation sites

The NCA includes the following statutory nature conservation designations (Natural England, Special Protection Areas; Special Area of Conservation; Ramsars; National Nature Reserves; Sites of Special Scientific Interest and Local Nature Reserves, 2021):

Please note: (i) Designated areas may overlap (ii) all figures are cut to Mean High Water Line, designations that span coastal/marine areas below this line will not be included.

Condition of designated sites
All designated sites within England are covered by Sites of Scientific Interest (SSSI) units. The condition to these SSSI units within the NCA are as follows (Natural England, Sites of Special Scientific Interest Units, 2021):



Landscape and nature conservation designations map for NCA34

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Landform, geology and soils section contains a map

Note that numbers and figures in the body of the text are based on the 2014 profiles, unless otherwise stated. The maps contain live frequently updated datasets.

Elevation

The NCA is an upland area with deep valleys thus the elevation ranges from 19m above sea level to a maximum of 561m. The mean elevation is 296m (Natural England, 2010).

Landform and process

The Bowland Fells form a distinct and almost circular upland dome of moorland, with gritstone outcrops and deep wooded river valleys. The Trough of Bowland, a pass connecting the valleys of the Marshaw Wyre and Langden Brook, divides the upland core into two main blocks. To the north of the Trough, an east-west ridge of moorland rises to over 560m at Ward’s Stone, the highest point within the NCA. To the south of the Trough, a more deeply incised hill mass rises to a summit of 510m at Fair Snape Fell on the southern most part of an escarpment edge (Bowland Fells Countryside Character Area description).

Bedrock geology

The character of Bowland is dominated by the Millstone Grit, laid down by rivers and deltas in the Carboniferous period. This occurs as alternating thick beds of coarse-grained sandstone (‘gritstone’) separated by layers of more easily eroded mudstone shales. The core of Bowland is hard sandstone, which forms the fell tops, while the softer beds of shale have eroded to form lower undulating areas broken by low scarps and valleys. The smooth broad fell tops are interrupted only by sporadic outcrops of sandstone at Ward’s Stone and Clougha Pike (Bowland Fells Countryside C Langden Brook, Trough of Bowland. haracter Area description Langden Brook, Trough of Bowland).

Superficial deposits

The moorland summit is predominately raw peat soils (blanket bog) which infill hollows and produce a smooth undulating land surface. The remaining uplands are soil from the Belmont series and are typically acid, coarse and loamy. The lower slopes of the fells are covered in slightly calcareous glacial till derived from Carboniferous parent material. Bowland Fells is important for its fluvial geomorphology, showing the recent development of alluvial fans, river bank erosion and channel changes since de-glaciation, such as those which are conspicuous in the Langden Valley (Bowland Fells Countryside Character Area description).

Designated geological sites

The NCA includes the following geological sites (Natural England, Geological and Mixed Sites of Special Scientific Interest, 2021):

wdt_IDNCA_IDNAMENCAAreaHaInterest typeArea (ha) 2021Percent of NCA (2021)Count
2361NORTH NORTHUMBERLAND COASTAL PLAIN37,669.6Geological6.80.01
2371NORTH NORTHUMBERLAND COASTAL PLAIN37,669.6Mixed1,029.52.75
2382NORTHUMBERLAND SANDSTONE HILLS72,694.6Geological45.40.14
2393CHEVIOT FRINGE51,591.3Geological17.10.02
2404CHEVIOTS36,487.9Geological165.00.52
2414CHEVIOTS36,487.9Mixed3,488.99.61
2425BORDER MOORS AND FORESTS127,155.9Geological85.70.18
2435BORDER MOORS AND FORESTS127,155.9Mixed35.80.01
2446SOLWAY BASIN98,350.4Geological7.20.02
2456SOLWAY BASIN98,350.4Mixed5,569.25.74

Soils and Agriculture Classification

The moorland summit is predominately raw peat soils (blanket bog) which infill hollows and produce smooth undulating land surface. The remaining uplands are soils from the Belmont series and are typically acid, coarse and loamy. The lower slopes of the fells are covered in slightly calcareous glacial till derived from Carboniferous parent material, giving rise to more fertile soils. This NCA has 5 main soilscape types: blanket bog peat soils (34 per cent); slowly permeable wet very acid upland soils with a peaty surface (28 per cent); slowly permeable seasonally wet acid loamy and clayey soils (19 per cent); very acid loamy upland soils with a wet peaty surface (16 per cent); loamy and clayey floodplain soils with naturally high groundwater (1 per cent) (Bowland Fells Countryside Character Area description, Natural England, 2010).

The main grades of agricultural land in the NCA are broken down as follows (as a proportion of total land area) (Natural England, Provisional Agricultural Land Classification, 2019):


Landform, geology and soils map for NCA34

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Key waterbodies and catchments section contains a map

Note that numbers and figures in the body of the text are based on the 2014 profiles, unless otherwise stated. The maps contain live frequently updated datasets.

Major rivers/canals

The following major rivers/canals (by length) have been identified in this NCA (Natural England, data informing the 2014 National Character Area Profiles, 2010):

wdt_IDREF_CODENAME_1NameLength (km)SumOfShape_Length
11NORTH NORTHUMBERLAND COASTAL PLAINRiver Aln7.67,587.2
21NORTH NORTHUMBERLAND COASTAL PLAINRiver Coquet5.55,516.0
31NORTH NORTHUMBERLAND COASTAL PLAINWhiteadder Water2.92,904.9
410NORTH PENNINESBlack Burn11.911,853.4
510NORTH PENNINESCroglin Water10.010,042.3
610NORTH PENNINESCrowdundle Beck4.34,337.4
710NORTH PENNINESDevil's Water20.520,464.6
810NORTH PENNINESHarwood Beck9.79,740.2
910NORTH PENNINESRiver Allen4.94,889.0
1010NORTH PENNINESRiver Derwent15.315,268.4

Please note: other significant rivers (by volume) may also occur. Tidal stretches of rivers are not included, which may include some major rivers.

This NCA has steep topography and narrow floodplains which combine with waterlogged moorland soils and high rainfall to produce watercourses that respond rapidly to rainfall. The northern slopes of the Bowland Fells are drained by streams which flow to the rivers Wenning and Hindburn, tributaries of the River Lune which flows through Lancaster before entering the sea on the southern side of Morecambe Bay. The western and south-west slopes of the Bowland Fells are drained by the headwaters of the River Wyre and its tributaries the rivers Calder and Brock as well as the River Conder which flows directly to the Irish Sea. The River Wyre enters the sea at Fleetwood on the southern entrance to Morecambe Bay.The southern and eastern slopes of the Bowland Fells are drained by streams flowing to the River Ribble and by the headwaters of its tributary the River Hodder. The Ribble flows through Preston before entering the Irish Sea at Lytham St Annes.

Water quality

Nitrate Vulnerable Zones (NVZs) are areas designated as being at risk from agricultural nitrate pollution. These can impact surface water (waterbodies and waterways located above ground) and groundwater (water bodies and waterways located below ground).

Waterbodies such as lakes can also be designated as “eutrophic waters” if the enrichment of the waterbody by nitrate pollution causes accelerated growth of algae, impacting the quality of the water and the balance of organisms within it.

The following NVZs are located within the NCA (Environment Agency, Nitrate Vulnerable Zones Designations, 2021):

Water framework directive

River basin management plans cover river basin districts and describe the challenges that threaten the water environment and how these challenges can be managed and funded. The plans include the classification of water quality of surface waters and ground waters.



Click on the Water Framework Directive layers on the below map to view the corresponding river names.

Key waterbodies and catchments map for NCA34

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Trees and woodlands section contains a map

Note that numbers and figures in the body of the text are based on the 2014 profiles, unless otherwise stated. The maps contain live frequently updated datasets.

Total woodland cover

Ancient woodland is any area that has been wooded continuously since at least 1600 AD. National Forest Inventory (NFI) woodland includes all forests and woodlands (0.5 hectares and over). The total woodland cover within the NCA is as follows (Natural England, Ancient Woodland, 2021; Forestry Commission, National Forest Inventory, 2020):

Distribution and size of woodland and trees in the landscape

Trees are generally absent from the central core. Steeply incised cloughs and wooded valleys link the exposed moorland with the lush green pastures and woodland at lower levels. Large blocks of ancient woodland survive here most notably Roburndale to the north-west. Extensive coniferous plantations occur to the south-east and east of the area, the largest of which is Gisburn Forest which is associated with the large water body at Stocks Reservoir. Small copses shelter the area’s isolated farmhouses (Bowland Fells Countryside Character Area description, Countryside Quality Counts, 2003)

Woodland types

A statistical breakdown of the area and type of woodland found across the NCA is detailed below (Forestry Commission, National Forest Inventory, 2020):

Area and proportion of ancient woodland and planted ancient woodland sites (PAWS) within the NCA (Natural England, Ancient Woodland, 2021):


Trees and woodlands map for NCA34

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Boundary features and patterns

Note that numbers and figures in the body of the text are based on the 2014 profiles, unless otherwise stated.

Boundary features

The estimated boundary length for the NCA is about 2,109 km. The majority of the area is unenclosed moorland fell. The fells are fringed by extensive areas of piecemeal ancient pre-1600 enclosure with irregular small to medium scale patterns defined by a mixture of stone walls, banks, hedgerows and fragments of ancient woodland (Bowland Fells Countryside Character Area description; Countryside Quality Counts, 2003).

Field patterns

The majority of the area is unenclosed moorland fell. The fells are fringed by extensive areas of piecemeal ancient pre-1600 enclosure with irregular small to medium scale patterns. Post-medieval enclosure (1600-1850) accounts for a large proportion of the fieldscapes rising from the Hodder Valley and extending further up the northern fellsides. These are distinguished by relatively large rectilinear field patterns defined by dry stone walls. They include some speculative moorland enclosures which reverted to moorland after 1840-50. These relict fields are particularly notable around Salter to the north-west, on Lamb Hill Fell above Stocks Reservoir to the east, and to the south on Easington and Wolf Fells. Small areas of these upland enclosures were created through Parliamentary Act, for example above Claugton, near Newton and on Catlow Fell, but the majority were created informally or through private agreements (English Heritage Historic Profiles; Countryside Character Area description, Countryside Quality Counts, 2003).

Agriculture section contains a map

Note that numbers and figures in the body of the text are based on the 2014 profiles, unless otherwise stated. The maps contain live frequently updated datasets.

The following tables provide the most recently available statistics from Defra on agriculture within the NCA.

Farm type

The following farm types are located within this NCA (Defra, Structure of the agricultural industry in England and the UK at June, 2016):

Farm size

The following table outlines the sizes of farms within the NCA (Defra, Structure of the agricultural industry in England and the UK at June, 2021):

Farm ownership

The following table outlines the ownership of farms within the NCA (Defra, Structure of the agricultural industry in England and the UK at June, 2016):

Land use

The following table outlines the types of agricultural land use within the NCA (Defra, Structure of the agricultural industry in England and the UK at June, 2016):

Livestock numbers

The following livestock are farmed within the NCA (Defra, Structure of the agricultural industry in England and the UK at June, 2021):

Farm labour

The following table outlines the types of farm labour within the NCA (Defra, Structure of the agricultural industry in England and the UK at June, 2021):

Please note: (i) Some of the Census data are estimated by Defra so may not present a precise assessment of agriculture within this area (ii) Data refers to commercial holdings only (iii) Data includes land outside of the NCA where it belongs to holdings whose centre point is recorded as being within the NCA.



Note that the below map only shows agri-environment scheme coverage, and not other schemes.

Agriculture map for NCA34

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Key habitats and species section contains a map

Note that numbers and figures in the body of the text are based on the 2014 profiles, unless otherwise stated. The maps contain live frequently updated datasets.

Habitat distribution/coverage

Expansive open rolling heather moorland and blanket bogs are the dominant feature of the NCA. The area is a mix of unimproved acid grassland, localised flushes and patches of rush, extensive areas of heather moorland and blanket bog, and sphagnum mosses, cranberry, crowberry, cotton grass and the scarce cloudberry. These are important habitats for red grouse, hen harrier, merlin, golden plover and peregrine. On the periphery of the moorland, areas of reclaimed pasture, often dominated by rush, provide important breeding grounds for waders such as lapwing, redshank, curlew, snipe and oystercatcher.

Steeply incised cloughs and wooded valleys are particular features that link the exposed mosaics of moorland and blanket bog vegetation with the lush green pastures and woodlands at lower levels. Occasional oak, rowan, alder and ash are present within the steeply incised cloughs of the moorland plateau. These are the favourite haunt of the ring ouzel and whinchat, especially where there are also areas of bracken. Areas of acid oak and birch woodland are also present in some areas, notably on the northern side of the Fells where they are important for their rich assemblage of bryophytes, and birds such as pied flycatcher, redstart, wood warbler and tree pipit. Rapid flowing streams and rivers provide a habitat for dipper, grey wagtail, common sandpiper, oystercatcher and kingfisher.

Steeply sloping escarpments, crags, quarries and rock scree support a mixture of semi-natural moorland vegetation on the upper slopes with bracken and unimproved acid grassland favoured by nesting whinchat, wheatear and twite. Many species favour the transitional zone with semiimproved grassland enclosed by drystone walls on lower ground.

Coniferous plantations are particularly extensive in the south east of the area. Gisburn forest adjacent to Stocks Reservoir, which is important for wintering wildfowl and breeding birds such as red breasted merganser, black headed gull and ringed plover, is one of the largest examples of its kind in Lancashire. It also supports small but locally important populations of crossbill, black grouse, nightjar and goshawk.

Herb-rich hay meadows occur in the limestone areas of the east around Slaidburn, and along the river valleys of Tarnbrook and the Hindburn. Pignut, yellow rattle, great burnet, lady’s mantle, ox-eye daisy and meadow buttercup adorn such meadows, which attract large numbers of butterflies and other insects, along with breeding curlews (Bowland Fells Countryside Agency Summary Statements, Forest of Bowland Natural Area Profile).

Key Habitats

The NCA contains the following areas of key main habitats, as mapped by the national Priority Habitat Inventory (Natural England, Priority Habitats Inventory, 2021):






Key habitats and species map for NCA34

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Settlement and development patterns section contains a map

Note that numbers and figures in the body of the text are based on the 2014 profiles, unless otherwise stated. The maps contain live frequently updated datasets.

Settlement patterns

There is a scattered settlement pattern, with picturesque stone villages and strong unity of building materials, styles and village form. Vaccaries (cattle stock farms) founded in the 12th and 13th centuries had a large impact on settlement patterns, developing into farmsteads and hamlets. The main settlements are positioned around the edge of the NCA on lower ground within the valleys (English Heritage Historic Profiles; Countryside Character Area description, Countryside Quality Counts, 2003).

Main settlements

Settlements within the Bowland Fells are restricted to villages, hamlets and isolated farmhouses. The main villages include: Dunsop Bridge, Slaidburn, Newton, Salter, Tosside and Claughton. The total estimated population for this NCA (derived from ONS 2001 census data) is: 2,873 (Bowland Fells Countryside Character Area description, Countryside Quality Counts, 2003).

Local vernacular and building materials

Constructed predominantly out of local ‘gritstone’ buildings in the Bowland Fells complement the natural features in the landscape and contribute to the aesthetic quality. The unity afforded by building materials, building style and village form provide a common identity throughout the NCA. Narrow streets, duckstone pavements, village greens, cottage gardens and stone boundary walls are characteristic features of the many picturesque villages (Bowland Fells Countryside Character Area description, Countryside Quality Counts, 2003).

Settlement and development patterns map for NCA34

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Key historic sites and features section contains a map

Note that numbers and figures in the body of the text are based on the 2014 profiles, unless otherwise stated. The maps contain live frequently updated datasets.

Origin of historic features

Archaeological features are mainly from the Iron Age and have largely remained intact due to low intensity farming. These include prehistoric settlements and associated land use highly visible on unenclosed moorland and low intensity rough pasture. Field enclosures bounded by dry stone walls vary from regular patterns on higher ground, where commons were systematically subdivided, to older, more irregular enclosures on the slopes where these is also a complex system of narrow lanes with occasional wide historic drove roads. Vaccaries (cattle stock farms) founded in the 1th2 and 13th centuries had a large impact on settlement patterns, developing into farmsteads and hamlets. There is low survival if pre-1750 farmstead buildings. Some lime kilns remain from the increased arable exploitation of the margins of the area from the late 18th to mid 19th century (Countryside Quality Counts Draft Historic Profile, Bowland Fells Countryside Character Area description).

Designated historic assets

The NCA includes the following designated historic assets (Historic England, National Heritage List for England, 2021):

Listed buildings

The NCA includes the following listed buildings (Historic England, National Heritage List for England, 2021):

Heritage at Risk Register

The NCA includes the following designated historic assets listed within the Heritage at Risk Register (Historic England, Heritage at Risk Register, 2023):



Key historic sites and features map for NCA34

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Recreation and access section contains a map

Note that numbers and figures in the body of the text are based on the 2014 profiles, unless otherwise stated. The maps contain live frequently updated datasets.

Public access

The following areas of public access for recreation are located within this NCA (Natural England, 2021; National Trust, 2021):


Please note: Public access areas may overlap.
The following linear routes or public access for recreation are located within this NCA (Natural England, 2021; Sustrans; 2021):

Recreation and access map for NCA34

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Experiential qualities

Note that numbers and figures in the body of the text are based on the 2014 profiles, unless otherwise stated.

Tranquillity

Based on the CPRE map of tranquillity (2006) the lowest scores for tranquillity occur around the villages and road network and the highest scores are on the open fell tops. Overall it is a very tranquil area.

A breakdown of tranquillity values for this NCA are detailed in the table below (CPRE, Tranquillity Map, 2006):

Dark skies

Light pollution is a generic term referring to artificial light that shines where it is neither wanted nor needed, and can impact on people’s experience of the countryside within the NCAs. CPRE host an interactive map, depicting the light pollution and dark skies within the NCA.

Intrusion

The 2007 Intrusion Map (CPRE) shows the extent to which rural landscapes are ‘intruded on’ from urban development, noise (primarily traffic noise), and other sources of visual and auditory intrusion. This shows that Waddington Fell and Caton Moor are the only disturbed areas within the NCA. A breakdown of intrusion values for this NCA is detailed in the table below.

A breakdown of intrusion values for this NCA is detailed in the table below (CPRE, Intrusion Map, 2007):

Notable trends from the 1960s to 2007 are the fact that disturbance has remained relatively unchanged over the last 50 years.