National Character Area 105

Forest of Dean and Lower Wye - 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 Forest of Dean NCA contains 8,041 ha of the Wye Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), covering 26 per cent of the total NCA area (Natural England, 2011).

Relationship with the coast

The adjacent coastline is covered by the following Shoreline Management Plans:

  • Anchor Head to Lavernock Point

The adjacent coastline includes the following Marine Plan – Marine Character Areas (MCAs):

  • Severn Estuary (England)


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 NCA105

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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

Elevation ranges from a minimum of 3m to a maximum of 288m (Natural England, 2010).

Landform and process

The underlying geology has a major influence on the landscape and landforms in the area while the varied soils associated with them lead to a wide range of habitats with their characteristic flora and fauna. The geomorphological features are a response of the different rock types to erosion (Forest of Dean Natural Area Profile Forest of Dean Countryside Character Area description).

Bedrock geology

The local geology consists of a raised basin of Palaeozoic rocks, folded in the Variscan Orogeny. This folding is responsible for the hilly scenery of the area. The basin is “lined” with very thick Old Red Sandstones from the Devonian – this geology is responsible for the area’s characteristic red soils. It is filled with Carboniferous rocks – sandstones, mudstones and limestones – which give the area its characteristic fine scenery. Extensive coal measures have been a major part of the area’s economy. Major iron ores are also present. Silurian and Triassic mudstones are found along the eastern margin of the Forest of Dean (Forest of Dean Countryside Character area description, Forest of Dean Natural Area Profile, British Geological Survey Maps).

Superficial deposits

There are no glacial deposits in the area; superficial deposits are limited to sands, gravels and alluvium along river courses (Forest of Dean Countryside Character area description, Forest of Dean Natural Area Profile, British Geological Survey Maps).

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

There are a variety of soils within the NCA, reflecting the underlying geology. There are 5 main soilscape types in this NCA: Freely draining slightly acid loamy soils (42 per cent); Freely draining slightly acid but base-rich soils (18 per cent); Slowly permeable seasonally wet slightly acid but base-rich loamy and clayey soils (16 per cent); Freely draining acid loamy soils over rock (13 per cent); and Slightly acid loamy and clayey soils with impeded drainage (10 per cent) (National Soils Research Institute).

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 NCA105

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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.

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 NCA105

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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

Much of the central plateau is wooded and managed for the production of timber. Along the Wye valley there is more ravine woodland. There is variation due to the long history of woodland management, with a great variety of ages, species and densities (Forest of Dean 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 NCA105

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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

Fields are either bounded by hedgerows, many of which are several hundred years old, or stone walls, fewer hedgerow trees are seen in the more fertile arable districts (Forest of Dean Countryside Character Area description; Countryside Quality Counts, 2003).

Field patterns

Holdings are generally small and field sizes variable, from small to medium, of medieval to 19th century date. Larger fields developed on arable-based plateau where farms were typically larger (Forest of Dean Countryside Character Area descrip

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 NCA105

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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

By definition, the main priority habitats in the Forest of Dean are woodlands: upland oakwoods, lowland mixed deciduous woodland, and wet woodland, all prominent in the forest proper, with some small areas of lowland grassland and coastal and floodplain grazing marsh in the NCA. The Gloucestershire Nature Map – a localisation of the South West Nature Map – identifies Strategic NatureAreas which provide the highest priority opportunity for restoration of priority habitat in Gloucestershire (Dean Plateau & Wye Valley 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 NCA105

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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

Predominant dispersed settlement pattern clearly evident by late 11th century, but in contrast to areas to north the levels of dispersal are low. Industrialisation drove the continued rate of dispersal both in the medieval period and later – notably in the clusters of probably subsidiary common-edge settlement – and the formation of market centres, notably Coleford and Lydney, and other settlements. Creation of a Royal Forest in the 13th century forced settlements to be restricted to margins and around iron ore deposits. Much of the encroachment onto areas of former Forest common by squatters occurred during the late 18th and early 19th centuries, for example around Cinderford and Berry, and the networks of lanes linking complex fields and dwellings in dispersed settlements of St Briavels and Hewelsfield Commons. Some of these settlements have become small towns (Forest of Dean Countryside Character Area description; Countryside Quality Counts, 2003).

Main settlements

The area is characterised by small towns, for example Cinderford, around the edge of the Forest rather than large town or cities. The total estimated population for this NCA, derived from ONS 2001 Census data, is 65,364 (Forest of Dean Countryside Character Area description; Countryside Quality Counts, 2003).

Local vernacular and building materials

Generally large-scale loose courtyard and dispersed plan farmsteads, late 17th to early 19th century threshing barns and shelter sheds to cattle yards being strongly characteristic. Split-level combination barns, with very small areas for storing and processing the corn crop, were most commonly associated with both dispersed/unplanned and courtyard groups of the mid- and later 19th century. Cider houses, distinguished by wide doors, and either built as separate buildings or incorporated into combination ranges, date from 18th century. Small-scale steadings are also a characteristic feature (Forest of Dean Countryside Character Area description; Countryside Quality Counts, 2003).

Settlement and development patterns map for NCA105

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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

During Roman domination, the deposits of iron ore and the abundant local supplies of charcoal were exploited to produce iron. The remains of shallow workings are still visible at Scowles. The main influence on the majority of the area Now the creation of a Royal Forest in the 13th century (Draft Historic Profile, Forest of Dean, Forest of Dean 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 NCA105

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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 NCA105

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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) areas of the NCA, outside “haloes” around towns and major roads, are still tranquil.

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 large areas of the NCA, outside “haloes” around towns and major roads, are still undisturbed. A breakdown of intrusion values for this NCA is detailed in the table opposite.

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