National Character Area 150

Dartmoor - Summary and Headline Statements of Environmental Opportunity


Dartmoor’s extensive upland moorland core rises above the surrounding small-scale, enclosed, predominantly pastoral landscape. Granite unites and characterises the entire National Character Area (NCA). On the moors the distinctive tors create key landscape features, interrupting otherwise unbroken skylines and ridges, and provide focal points for visitors. Isolated farmsteads and scattered villages utilise granite for buildings and walls; and the area’s strong time depth and rich cultural heritage are visually evident because of the granite, which includes the largest concentration of prehistoric stone rows in Britain.

The high moors are overlaid with thick deposits of peat and support internationally important blanket bogs surrounded by large expanses of upland heathland and grass moorland. The bogs and valley mires absorb and store significant amounts of water, as well as carbon, released into the 16 rivers and 8 reservoirs that supply the surrounding urban and rural populations and industry. As rivers leave the high moor they flow through deep-cut valleys steeped in woodland – both semi-natural broadleaved and coniferous plantation. The fast-flowing rivers, strewn with granite boulders, are popular for recreation, both passive and active.

Agriculture continues to shape the landscape, as it has for thousands of years. Extensive grazing of the moorland commons by cattle, sheep and Dartmoor Ponies helps to manage the habitats and the large tracts of open access land. The surrounding enclosed land is an integral part of the upland farming system, providing ground for overwintering stock, hay meadows and winter feed crops.

Dartmoor provides a wealth of natural services, fresh water, carbon storage and food, as well as significant opportunity for recreation and access to areas with a high level of tranquillity. The challenge is to sustainably manage and enhance the natural assets that provide the services and opportunities. With 97 per cent of the NCA designated as a National Park, Dartmoor is well positioned to balance and manage these challenges and opportunities.

Headline Statements of Environmental Opportunity (SEO)

See the Statements of Environmental Opportunity section for more details on the headlines listed below.


Protect, manage and enhance Dartmoor’s extensive open moor, its sense of wildness and remoteness, the internationally important habitats and species it supports, and the carbon and water stored in its deep peat.


Protect, manage and enhance Dartmoor’s rich cultural heritage and its strong connection with granite and associated minerals, providing inspiring information to promote understanding of the landscape.


Protect, manage and enhance the enclosed, tranquil character of the pastoral landscape, encouraging the management of boundary features, including granite walls, and of semi-natural features to strengthen local distinctiveness and connectivity. Create opportunities for quiet, informal recreation, particularly around settlements.


Protect and manage Dartmoor’s network of streams, leats and rivers; and enhance the contribution they make to landscape character, recreation and biodiversity, while managing water flows, quality and supply.