National Character Area 98

Clun and North West Herefordshire - 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.

The Clun and North West Herefordshire Hills NCA contains 28,089 ha of the Shropshire Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), which represents 45 per cent of the NCA (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 NCA98

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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 lowest elevation in this NCA is 72 m; the highest point is 493 m. The mean elevation across the NCA is 238m (Natural England, 2010).

Landform and process

The rounded North West Herefordshire Hills rise out of the Herefordshire Lowlands, joining the Clun Hills to extend north westwards in a rolling, rhythmic pattern to the Welsh border. At their eastern edge, the hills are divided by the rivers Clun and Teme and their tributaries; to the east, the Shropshire Hills have far more irregular and diverse landforms. In the centre of the area, the steep-sided, shallow domed hills of Clun Forest are similar in character to the Welsh hills to the west. On the western border they rise to high moorland sweeping westward into Powys. This wild open countryside changes east Llanfair Hill and the landscape becomes more domesticated.

On the ridge tops there are panoramic views, which emphasise the area’s plateau origin, as well as long views down narrow, twisting valleys which widen eastwards. The heads of the valleys are narrow and deeply incised with woodland on the steepest slopes. Down valley they widen to significant flood plains, around the Teme and its tributaries, such as Wigmore Basin. (Clun and North West Herefordshire Hills Countryside Character Area Description).

Bedrock geology

The Silurian sediments (416 to 439 million years) represent fluctuating marine conditions between the shallow water of the continental shelf and the deepening water westwards of the continental slope. The former is epitomised by the Much Wenlock Limestone Formation, and a second recurrence with the Aymestry Limestone. Deeper and/or muddier waters following higher sea levels give the intervening shales. The Pridoli sees an almost seamless transition in the NCA from fully marine to estuarial and deltaic conditions across the old Silurian boundary of the Ludlow Bone Bed. A few inliers of sedimentary Precambrian rock (550 to 540 million years) are caught up in the Church Stretton Fault zone. This Longmyndian rock represents a shallow water basin accumulation of the erosion products of the volcanic Uriconian uplands (Clun and North West Herefordshire Hills Geodiversity Narrative, West Midlands Geodiversity Partnership).

Superficial deposits

The youngest sediments exposed in the NCA are late Pleistocene-aged (Devensian, 80,000 to 10,000 BP) or younger. Devensian sands and gravels were deposited in fluvialglacial and periglacial environments in front of the ice sheets which covered much of Shropshire during this last ‘Ice Age’ (Clun and North West Herefordshire Hills 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 soils are mainly well-drained, acidic brown earths developed from the surface layers of the Silurian beds that have been disturbed by surface creep or frost action. On the lower slopes, the soils are silty but still free-draining and it is here that arable cultivation is most successful (Clun and North West Herefordshire Hills Countryside Character Area Description).

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 NCA98

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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.

The NCA forms the western catchment of the River Teme. The south-east flowing rivers of Redlake, Clun, Unk and Kemp meet to the east to form floodplains of alluvial sands and silts. The three main rivers that occur in the area are the River Teme and its tributary the Clun, which are part of the Severn catchment, and the River Lugg, which flows into the Wye. All flow from west to east and are noted for their high water quality and associated habitats. The main rivers have escaped the ‘improvement’ to which many rivers were subjected to in the 1970s and 1980s and therefore retain a great deal of physical and biological diversity. Both the River Teme and River Lugg are SSSI.

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 NCA98

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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

The heads of the valleys are narrow and deeply incised with woodland on the steepest slopes, frequently deciduous in nature. From Clun eastwards, there are substantial conifer plantations, often extending over the hilltops. The plantations are sometimes on ancient woodland sites. In other cases they are recent with conspicuous straight edges, at odds with the predominantly rounded landforms (Clun and North West Herefordshire Hills Countryside Character Area Description).

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 NCA98

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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

Field boundaries are mainly hedges with a strong rectilinear pattern, although this has been affected by hedgerow removal and mismanagement (Clun and North West Herefordshire Hills Countryside Character Area Description; Countryside Quality Counts, 2003).

Field patterns

On the ridge tops, the unimproved pasture is sometimes in a patchwork with the smooth greens of improved grassland and occasional patches of arable land. On the lower slopes, there is a generally regular pattern of large fields cut through by small streams, often with drifts of streamside woodland. Around the farmsteads, hamlets and villages the field pattern becomes denser and more irregular. However, on the broader floodplains, farming is generally intensive, hedges are low and intermittent and trees are infrequent (Clun and North West Herefordshire Hills 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 NCA98

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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

The parklands which are of greatest nature conservation interest are the surviving medieval deer parks with scattered ancient trees in a matrix of unimproved pasture. Brampton Bryan Park is of national importance for its invertebrates and lichens, and beside parkland contains areas of heathland dominated by heather and gorse, an uncommon habitat in Herefordshire. There are few areas of standing open water within the NCA, and of most importance are Flintsham and Titley Pools which provide a refuge for wildfowl such as widgeon, teal and water rail.Marshy grassland is an increasingly rare habitat, and there are several important sites within the NCA. Neutral grassland, an internationally important resource is mainly located in the southeast. There are several areas of high value acid grassland, including areas at Bircher Common and Croft Ambrey. This NCA is of some importance as a locality for the priority habitat purple moor-grass and rush pasture. There are areas of unenclosed land, particularly in the Clun Uplands, which support a range of habitats including rough grassland, bracken, scrub and heathland. Rhos Fiddle is the most extensively remaining area for moorland (upland heath), with most of it having now been reclaimed for agriculture (Natural England 2011).

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 NCA98

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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

Farmsteads and small hamlets lie in the upper valleys just below the exposed hilltops and above the floodplains on the lower valleys. On the lower ground, the smaller settlements become more frequent, particularly in North Herefordshire as the landform becomes more intricate. Villages and former boroughs lie at the edges of the floodplains, usually strategically sited at river crossings. Their simple medieval plans, often dominated by a single street leading to a squat grey-stoned castle or church tower, have an attractive uniformity of character. Small manor houses are frequent, perhaps surrounded by a home farm and near the medieval mottes that they succeeded. In the hamlets and villages, the sturdy Norman churches emphasise theborder character of this seemingly undisturbed settlement pattern (Clun and North West Herefordshire Hills Countryside Character Area Description; Countryside Quality Counts, 2003).

Main settlements

The main settlements are Bishop’s Castle, Kington, Clun and Leintwardine. The total estimated population for this NCA (derived from ONS 2001 census data) is 14,251 (Clun and North West Herefordshire Hills Countryside Character Area Description; Countryside Quality Counts, 2003).

Local vernacular and building materials

Farmsteads are often whiteNowhed or built of the greyish Silurian stone. Stone predominates within the settlements found on the lower ground, but there is some brick as well as occasional timber framing (Clun and North West Herefordshire Hills Countryside Character Area Description; Countryside Quality Counts, 2003).

Settlement and development patterns map for NCA98

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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

There is evidence of extensive clearance of woodland and use of eastern uplands for summer grazing by the Bronze Age, with concentration of hillforts (for example, Clun) by the Iron Age providing foci for settled communities in the valleys. The NCA has a long history as a frontier landscape, with Offa’s Dyke forming the boundary of Saxon Kingdom of Mercia to the west. From the late 11th century into the 12th century, and as a result of the Norman Conquest, earthen motte and bailey castles were built in the central hills and vales. Estates developed from this period, and often around these defensive foci, the area being strongly characterised by small manor houses (of medieval and later date) and landscaped parks like Brampton Bryan and Croft, often developing in the post-medieval period from medieval deer parks. Iconic military sites are notable, such as Clun and Hopton castles, and numerous small earthwork castles reflecting centuries of border unrest in the medieval period (Countryside Quality Counts, Clun and North West Herefordshire Hills 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 NCA98

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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 NCA98

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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 upland areas are the most tranquil with the areas around Clun, Bishop’s Castle and Kington being least tranquil. However, it is to be noted that overall Clun and the North Herefordshire Hills is one of the most tranquil areas in England.

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 the upland areas are the most tranquil with the areas around Clun, Bishop’s Castle and Kington being least tranquil. However, it is to be noted that overall Clun and the North Herefordshire Hills is one of the most tranquil areas in England.

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 a slight increase in the area of disturbed/intruded land by 2 per cent matched by a decrease in the areas of undisturbed/un-intruded land by 2 per cent.