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Removal of water from a source of supply.

Access provision

Statutory rights such as public rights of way or open access land which often exist over private land. These rights are permanent and cannot be readily removed. See also permissive access and de facto access.


The build-up of sediment solely by the action of the forces of nature, for example through deposition by water or wind.


The upper of two distinct layers in undisturbed peat bogs; the acrotelm contains living plants, and overlies the catotelm, which contains dead plants.


A horizontal (or nearly horizontal) entrance to a mine, used for access, drainage, ventilation and removing minerals.


Agri-environment schemes, see below.


Growing or planting of new woods or forests.

Agri-environment schemes (AES)

Voluntary agreements that pay farmers and other land managers to manage their land in an environmentally friendly way


A business that earns most or all of its revenue from agriculture.

Alkaline flushes

Peat or mineral-based upland wetlands which receive water and nutrients from surface and/or groundwater sources as well as from rainfall.


A fan-shaped deposit of sediment left by a fast-flowing river or stream that has lost velocity on entering a broad, relatively flat valley.


Soils or sediments deposited by a river/water.

Alpine Orogeny

Mountain-building event that affected a broad segment of southern Europe and the Mediterranean region during the Palaeogene and Neogene Periods (65.6 to 2.6 million years ago). Volcanic activity in England also occurred during the Alpine Orogeny.


An ammonoid fossil, especially one of a later type, found chiefly in the Jurassic and Cretaceous Periods, typically with intricately frilled suture lines.

Ancient forest

See ancient woodland.

Ancient Monument

Any scheduled monument, or any other monument, which in the opinion of the Secretary of State is of public interest by reason of the historic, architectural, artistic or archaeological interest attributed to it.

Ancient trees

Trees of interest biologically, aesthetically or culturally because of their great age, often in the last third and final stage of their life and that are old relative to others of the same species. See also veteran trees.

Ancient wood pasture

Areas of grazed pasture, heath or open hill with a scattering of open-grown ancient and veteran trees. Once a common feature of the landscape in some areas, they provided shelter, pasture and fodder for livestock, as well as wood products for local people.

Ancient woodland

Woodland that has existed since at least 1600, and possibly much longer. It often has dense canopies, large trees and an abundance of wildlife. See also Plantations on Ancient Woodland Sites.


A dark, fine-grained volcanic rock which is a common constituent of lava flows.


The name of one of the main Germanic peoples, who settled in England in the post-Roman period.


A convex fold in rock, the central part of which contains the oldest rocks.


Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, see below. As of the 22nd November 2023, AONBs were re-branded as ‘National Landscapes’. In legal terms they are still defined as AONBs under the 1949 National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act.


Artificial channel for conveying water, typically in the form of a bridge supported by tall columns across a valley.


Deposits of rock such as sandstone that can be used as a source to supply wells or groundwater. Layers of rock or drift deposits that have high inter- granular and/or fracture permeability so that they provide a high level of water storage that can support water supply or river base flow.

Arable farming

The growing of crops in fields, such as cereal crops.

Arable field margins

Herbaceous strips or blocks around arable fields that are managed specifically to provide benefits for wildlife.

Area of Outstanding National Beauty (AONB)

National Landscapes (legally known as Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty – AONBs) are nationally important landscapes, designated under the 1949 National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act. Their primary purpose is to ‘conserve and enhance natural beauty’.
As of the 22nd November 2023, AONBs were re-branded as ‘National Landscapes’. In legal terms they are still defined as AONBs under the 1949 National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act.


An enclosure or field formed by the clearance of woodland.


In relation to flooding, managing run-off and excess water.


Metamorphosed rock surrounding an igneous intrusion – rock that has been changed by the extreme heat of the intrusion.

Banjo enclosure

An iron-age archaeological feature, with a small circular area accessed by a long entrance passage, thus resembling the shape of a banjo.


See UK Biodiversity Action Plan (UK BAP).


Ancient burial mound.

Base flow

The flow of water entering stream channels from groundwater sources in the drainage of large lakes.


Two-storeyed, roughly built, defensible farmhouse with main living area on the first floor and storerooms/animal shelter below.


A swiftly flowing stream, often in mountain areas.


(geological) Parallel layers in a sedimentary rock.


A general term for the solid rock that underlies soil and other unconsolidated surface material.

Beetle banks

Grass mounds about 2 m wide that run the length of arable fields, but still allow the field to be farmed as one unit. Beetle banks can boost predatory insect numbers, which helps with pest control.


The lowest level of a body of water, such as the seabed or a lake. It is inhabited by organisms that live in close relationship with (if not physically attached to) the ground, called benthos or benthic organisms.


The variability among living organisms from all sources, including, inter alia, terrestrial, marine and other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are part; this includes diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems.

Biodiversity Action Plan

See UK Biodiversity Action Plan (UK BAP).


A type of energy derived from renewable plant and animal materials.


Biological material derived from living, or recently living, organisms. In the energy context, often used to mean plant-based material, but can equally apply to both animal- and vegetable-derived material.


Minimising the risk of harm to humans and animals.

Birds Directive

A framework for the conservation and management of, and human interaction with, wild birds in Europe.

Birds of Conservation Concern

Assessment of the conservation status of UK birds.

Blanket bog

Globally restricted peatland habitat confined to cool, wet, typically oceanic climates.

Bog cotton

See cotton grass.


Cleared areas originally designed to provide temporary shelter and pastures, now often more permanent in character.

Borrow pit

An area where material (usually soil, gravel or sand) has been dug for use at another location.

Borrowed view

Incorporating background landscape into the composition of the foreground landscape design (for example, a garden).

Boulder clay

Glacial deposit consisting of clay containing boulders (of varying size). Boulder clay is laid down beneath a glacier or ice sheet. Also known as till.


A stream, typically on chalk or limestone, which flows only after wet weather.

Bowl barrow

A burial mound which resembles the shape of an upturned bowl.


Before the Present – a measure of time used by archaeologists as an alternative to AD, BC etc. For these purposes, ‘the Present’ is defined as 1950.

Braided [stream]

A network of converging and diverging streams separated from each other by narrow strips of sand and gravel.


A light, broken and crumbly soil type.


The practice of introducing diversity into crop rotation in order to reduce the incidence of disease, weeds and pest levels.


Rocks comprised of angular fragments of pre-existing rocks within a finer-grained matrix.


A wind-blown dust deposited during peri- or postglacial conditions in southern England (although the term is used more widely to describe similar deposits elsewhere). So called because of its use in early brick making.

Broadleaved woodland

Woodland with more than 80 per cent of its trees as broadleaved species. In the UK these are native species such as ash, oak, hazel and field maple.

Bronze Age

Characterised by bronze tools and weapons, a technological stage between the Stone Age and the Iron Age, beginning in the Middle East in about 4500 BC and lasting in Britain from about 2000 to 500 BC.

Browse line

The vertical point in a woodland where natural vegetation starts, below which browsing animals such as deer have eaten and stripped back plant growth.


Most commonly mosses, restricted to moist environments.


Botanical Society of the British Isles.

Buddle pit

Used in mineral mining industries to separate by sedimentation minerals from lighter rock dust in crushed ore.

Buffer zone

Protecting sites by ensuring that adjacent land is managed in order to reduce adverse impacts on the site; or where there is potential for development to impact on designated landscapes.

Built environment

Buildings and all other constructions created by humans.


Stream, from the Scottish.


A low hill formed from the ‘fossilised’ sand banks of marine deposits.


Cattle shelter.


Human-constructed pile of stones, usually in the uplands and often conical in shape, marking summits or regular intervals.

Calaminarian grassland

A habitat found on old river gravel deposits near where mining for metals such as lead has taken place. Waste from the mining process is released into the river and becomes trapped in the gravel. As the course of the river varies over time through natural processes, the gravel become exposed and forms a habitat for plant species that are tolerant of heavy metals.


Mostly containing or composed of calcium carbonate, limestone. Chalky.

Calcareous grasslands

Grasslands in which lime-loving plants are characteristic.


Plant that grows in lime-rich (calcium-rich) soil.


A calcium-rich hardened layer in or on soil. Also known as ‘caliche’, among other terms.


A period of geological time, dating from about 545 to 495 million years ago.

Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE)

Charity that campaigns to protect, promote and enhance towns and countryside.


Catchment Abstraction Management Strategy, see below.


The process by which finely textured bare soil forms a ‘cap’ or hardened surface when it is exposed to heavy rain.

Carbon sequestration

A process, natural or otherwise, through which carbon dioxide is removed from the atmosphere and stored, for example on peat uplands.

Carbon storage

See carbon sequestration.


A period of geological time, dating from about 354 to 290 million years ago. The start of the Carboniferous was marked by a major rise in sea levels.

Carr woodland

See wet woodland.


A channel feeding water into, for example, a river.

Cash crops

Crops grown for their commercial and marketable value (as opposed to crops grown for livestock feed or other purposes).


The area from which precipitation and groundwater will collect and contribute to the flow of a specific river.

Catchment Abstraction Management Strategy (CAMS)

Environment Agency tool to manage water resources in England and Wales.

Catchment Flood Management Plans

Plans that give an overview of the flood risk across each river catchment and which consider all types of inland flooding from rivers, groundwater and surface water and tidal flooding. Catchment Flood Management Plans recommend ways of managing those risks now and over the next 50–100 years.

Catchment sensitive farming (CSF)

Initiative that delivers practical solutions and targeted support to enable farmers and land managers to take voluntary action to reduce diffuse water pollution from agriculture to protect waterbodies and the environment.


Centre for Ecology and Hydrology.


Relating to or denoting the most recent era, following the Mesozoic Era and comprising the Tertiary and Quaternary Periods. The Cenozoic has lasted from about 65 million years ago to the present day.


Marine mammal of the order Cetacea such as a dolphin, whale or porpoise.

Chalk Group

Often called ‘the Chalk’, rock strata that contain the late Cretaceous Limestone succession in southern and eastern England, such as the White Cliffs of Dover.

Character Area

See National Character Areas (NCAs).


Unenclosed area of land used for hunting.


A hard, dark, opaque rock composed of silica with an amorphous or microscopically fine-grained texture.


or corrie. A half-open, steep-sided hollow at the head of a valley or on a mountainside, caused by glacial erosion.


A small stone-built coffin-like box or ossuary used to hold the bodies of the dead.


Country Land and Business Association, see below.

Clapper bridge

An ancient type of bridge found on Dartmoor and Exmoor and other upland areas formed by placing slabs of rock such as granite on stone piers or, for shorter crossings, using the banks of, for example, a stream for support.


A cleft or gorge in a hill.


The average weather experienced in a region over a long period, typically at least 30 years. This includes temperature, wind and rainfall patterns.

Climate change

A change in global climate patterns apparent from the mid- to late 20th century onwards, attributed largely to the increased levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide produced by the use of fossil fuels.


A limestone ‘slab’, formed by water corrosion along joints and cracks in the limestone. See also gryke.


Trails of granite blocks on a slope resulting from the collapse through weathering of granite ‘stacks’.


Small, often steep valley forming on slopes and often with a stream.

Co-axial field [system]

A field system with one prevailing axis of orientation, in which most field boundaries are either aligned with this axis or run at right angles to it.

Coal Measures

Series of coal-bearing rocks formed in the Upper Carboniferous Period.

Coastal Access Scheme

A scheme that sets out Natural England’s approach to creating the England Coastal Path.

Coastal squeeze

The loss of coastal habitat in front of sea defences, whether these are natural or manmade.

Cob house

House built with material made from a mix of recyclable, natural and often free locally available materials.


A general name for loose sediments of varying sizes deposited at the bottom of a slope by a variety of processes such as the action of gravity or rain.


This came to mean the highest-ranking form of Roman city, although it initially designated an outpost designed to secure conquered territory. Colchester (Camulodunum), Lincoln (Lindum) and Gloucester (Glevum) are early examples from Roman Britain.


Valley or hollow on a hillside; a dry valley in a limestone or chalk escarpment.

Common Agricultural Policy

A European Union system that sets prices, limits of what can be grown and agricultural subsidies.

Common land

Areas where people who do not own the land have rights to use it for livestock grazing or other purposes. See also registered common land.


See common land.

Community Forest

Any one of the forests created through the Community Forest programme, which was established as an experimental programme to revitalise some 1,750 square miles of countryside and green space in and around major conurbations. Since 1989 the 12 Community Forests have transformed landscapes in and around major urban areas in England, creating well-wooded landscapes close to where most people live and work.

Compaction of soil

Deterioration of the soil’s structure.

Compensatory habitat

Habitat that is created because an existing protected natural area has been lost or damaged.


Relating to conifers (trees or shrubs typically bearing cones and evergreen leaves).


An extended urban area, typically consisting of several towns merging with the suburbs of a central city.


Area of woodland that is regularly cut back to ground level to stimulate growth and provide timber or firewood.

Coppice stool

A form of woodland management which involves repetitive felling on the same stump, near to ground level, and allowing the shoots to regrow from that main stump.


Small thicket of shrubs or group of trees.


A deposit of coralliferous limestone laid down during the Upper Jurassic period.


A thin limestone formation from the Jurassic period.

Cornish hedge

A stone-faced earth hedgebank with bushes or trees growing along the top, found only in Cornwall.

Cotton grass

Sedge that typically grows on wet moorlands, producing tufts of long, white, silky hairs which aid in dispersal of the seeds. Also called bog cotton.

Country Land and Business Association (CLA)

The membership organisation for owners of land, property and businesses in rural England and Wales.

Countryside Stewardship Scheme

Scheme introduced in England in 1991 initially as a pilot, to provide payments to farmers and other land managers to enhance and conserve English landscapes, their wildlife and their history and to help people to enjoy them. The scheme has now been replaced by Environmental Stewardship and is closed to new applicants.


See sand/coversands.


A dense group of trees or shrubs, often (but not always) associated with game.


Campaign to Protect Rural England, see above.


A period of geological time, dating from about 142 to 65 million years ago.


Light and dark marks visible in growing and ripening crops, especially via aerial photography.


Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000.

Cruck frame

Curved timbers (usually naturally curved) which support the ridges of a roof, while a horizontal beam completes the ‘A frame’.


Catchment sensitive farming, see above.

Cuesta landscape

A landscape consisting of hills or ridges with gentle slopes on one side and deep slopes on the other.

Cultivation pans

Compacted, impermeable layers in the soil formed as a result of cultivation. These layers can restrict the movement of water and oxygen and root growth.


A tunnel that carries a stream or open drain underneath a road, embankment or railway.


Soft-finned mainly freshwater fish without stomachs or jaws, for example carp and minnow.


A valley.


Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (Northern Ireland).

De facto access

Where there is an absence of any legal right to be present on land, but where there is a longstanding tolerance or implied consent of the owner to the user’s presence.


A branch or part of a tree that is dead.


Department of Energy and Climate Change.


Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.


An accumulation of sediment where a river enters a lake or ocean and where, due to a reduction in velocity, it sheds its sediment load.


Branching like a tree.


The removal of solid matter by water in motion, whether of rivers or of the waves and currents of the sea, and the consequent laying bare of inferior rock.

Desire line

An unofficial track or path formed in the landscape over time by people taking the shortest navigable route between two points.


Dehydrating; the process of extracting water.


A geological time period (between 115,000 and 10,000 years ago). This period includes the most recent ice sheet glaciation of northern Britain.


A geological structure formed as the result of mobile material being forced upwards into more brittle rocks by, for example, gravitational or tectonic forces.


A small wooded valley with steep sides.

Dip slope

A surface which slopes in the same direction and often by the same amount as the underlying rock strata – generally, though not always, less steep than the escarpment which forms the other side of the hill or ridge in question.


The release of substances (water or sewage) into surface water.


A dark, fine- to medium-grained igneous rock.

Downdrift frontage

Shoreline which faces the direction of alongshore movement of beach materials.


An area of open chalk hills. Areas of downland are often referred to as ‘Downs’.

Drove road

Route for moving livestock along, often characterised by being wide, in contrast to packhorse routes, which were often narrower.


Extended, oval hill or ridge of compacted sediment deposited and shaped by a glacier.

Drystone wall

Wall made of stones without the use of mortar.

Duckstone pavement

Cobbled pavement.


(geological) A sheet-like body of igneous rock that cuts across the bedding or structural planes of the host (older) rock. Also used to describe a wall or embankment to prevent flooding from the sea or as a boundary, e.g. Offa’s Dyke


Environment Agency, see below.


A large artificial bank of soil, especially one made as a defence in ancient times, for example a bronze-age earthworks.


European Community.


A natural unit consisting of all plants, animals and micro-organisms (biotic factors) in an area functioning together with all of the non-living physical (abiotic) factors of the environment.

Ecosystems approach

The management of human activities based on the best understanding of ecological interactions and processes, so as to ensure that the structure and functions of ecosystems are sustained for the benefit of present and future generations.

Edge habitat

Where two habitat types come into contact.


Environmental Impact Assessment, see below.


The height above a given place, often sea level.

Encapsulated countryside

Encapsulated countryside frequently includes former agricultural features such as hedgerows and ponds and comprises habitats including grassland, scrub, woodland, marsh and watercourses. They are systems which no longer receive the formal management associated with the rural environment and are now isolated within urban areas. They are often valuable components of wildlife corridors or functional stepping stones in an ecological network.

Enclosure Acts

Series of Acts of Parliament that enclosed open fields and common land, meaning that the rights people once held to graze animals on these areas were denied.

Energy crops

Crops grown for their fuel value to make biomass or biofuels.

English Heritage

The Government’s adviser on the historic environment in England.

Entry Level Stewardship

An agri-environment scheme that provides funding to farmers and other land managers in England in return for delivering environmental management on their land.

Environment Agency

Agency that plays a central role in delivering the environment priorities of central government and the Welsh Government.

Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)

An analytical process that systematically examines the possible environmental consequences of the implementation of projects, programmes and policies.

Environmental Stewardship

Land management scheme providing funding to farmers and other land managers in England for delivering effective environmental management on their land. ES has three elements: Entry Level Stewardship and Organic Entry Level Stewardship are basic whole-farm schemes; Higher Level Stewardship encompasses more complex management. See also Uplands Entry Level Stewardship.

Environmentally Sensitive Areas

Scheme that offered payments to encourage farmers to adopt agricultural practices to safeguard and enhance parts of the country of particularly high landscape, wildlife or historic value. The scheme has now been replaced by Environmental Stewardship (see below) and is closed to new applicants.


Land protected from the sea by the building of sea walls.


The process by which particles of rock and soil are loosened through weathering and then transported elsewhere through the action of wind, water, ice or gravity.


Rocks (varying in size from pebbles to boulders) which are different in terms of size and type from the rocks on which they rest, having been transported to their current location by forces such as glaciers.


The long, steep face of a ridge or plateau formed by erosion; scarp.


A ridge of sediment (often winding) made up of sand and gravel deposited by glacial meltwater. See also fluvio-glacial deposit.


Relating to or found in an estuary (see below).


The wide mouth of a river where the current meets the sea tide.


European Union.


The ecosystem’s response to the addition of artificial or natural substances, such as nitrates and phosphates through fertilisers or sewage, to an aquatic system.


Mineral deposit left after the evaporation of a body of water.


The process by which water is transferred from the land to the atmosphere by evaporation from the soil and other surfaces and by transpiration from plants.

Farm Environment Plan

Part of the Higher Level Stewardship scheme application process used to identify features of environmental value on the land.


The house belonging to a farm and its adjacent buildings.

Fault line

A line on a rock surface or the ground that traces a geological fault.


Forestry Commission, see below.


A hill or stretch of moorland.


A low and marshy or frequently flooded area of land with a high botanical diversity, with mosses, rushes, sedges, wetland grasses and characteristic flowering plants; fens can be easily affected by inputs of nutrients or by scrub encroachment.

Fen carr

Woodland which grows in fen (see above) conditions consisting of, for example, alder or willow.


Containing iron.


Process of filtering.


Flat stone slabs, usually sandstone or millstone, typically split into rectangles and used for paving, or for roofing on farms and other vernacular buildings in the uplands.

Flailed hawthorn

Hawthorn hedgerow which is cut back (traditionally on an annual basis) using a mechanised flail as opposed to being trimmed manually or left to grow.


A waterbody, often large, formed in areas where coal mining took place and subsidence has since occurred.

Flint scatters

Collections of worked flint, stone and associated raw material gathered up from the surface of ploughed fields or disturbed ground.

Flood bank

A natural or artificial slope or wall to regulate water levels. It is usually earthen and often parallel to the course of a river or the coast.

Flood plain

Where rivers naturally store water during a flood, often on low-lying land adjacent to the river.

Flood storage

Areas of land designed to store floodwater, to hold back floodwaters or to delay the flow so that it is discharged over a longer time interval.


Associated with lateral water movement, and springs with localised upwelling of water.


Of or related to rivers; produced by river action.


Water created by the melting of glaciers.

Foot and mouth disease

Acute contagious disease of cloven-hoofed animals marked by ulcers in the mouth and around the hoofs.


A hill at the base of a mountain or mountain range.


A path for people to walk along, especially a right of way in the countryside.


Large wood, or a collection of woods, although the two terms are often interchangeable.

Forest Design Plans

Produced by the Forestry Commission, these plans set out the management proposals for the next 30 years for the woodlands the Forestry Commission looks after.

Forest Law

A law that is particularly applicable to the forest, for example the preservation of timber or game.

Forestry Commission (FC)

Britain’s largest land manager. It is the custodian of 1 million ha of land. Two-thirds of the estate lies within National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty or Sites of Special Scientific Interest.


Mineralised remains or traces of an organism.

Fossil fuels

Fuels such as gas, coal and oil, which were formed underground from plant and animal remains millions of years ago.


Ancient title given to coal or iron miners in the Forest of Dean who had earned the right to mine a personal plot.

Fronting beach

A beach which fronts directly onto the sea.

Frost heave

An upwards swelling of the soil caused by the increasing presence of ice at lower levels moving towards the surface.


A dark, coarse-grained igneous rock, rich in calcium, magnesium and iron; the chemical equivalent of basalt.


Good Agricultural and Environmental Conditions, see below.


The insertion of small pieces of stone into wet mortar.

GCR site

Geological Conservation Review site, see below.

Genetic diversity

Genetic variations between and within species.


The conservation of the non-living natural environment. Also a term for geological and geomorphological conservation.


The natural range (diversity) of geological (rocks, minerals, fossils), geomorphological (land form, processes) and soil features. It includes their assemblages, relationships, properties, interpretations and systems.

Geological Conservation Review (GCR) sites

Sites identified through a systematic and rigorous process as being of national scientific importance for their geological and geomorphological features. Most GCR sites are eventually notified, individually or in combination with other GCR sites or biological interests, as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (see below).


The scientific study of the Earth, its origins and evolution, the materials that make it up and the processes that act on it.


Relates to landforms and the processes such as glaciation, coastal and fluvial erosion and gravity which form them.

Gill woodland

Woodland in steep-sided ravines.

Gin circle

A circular structure enclosing a mill that uses horses as its power source.

Glacial abrasion

The process by which a glacier erodes the underlying bedrock through contact between the bedrock and rock fragments embedded in the base of the glacier.

Glacial lake

A lake that derived much or all of its water from the melting of glacier ice, fed by meltwater, and lying beyond the glacier margin.

Glacial till

Drift that is deposited directly from glacial ice and therefore not sorted. Also called till.


The formation, movement and recession of glaciers or ice sheets.


A moving body of ice that forms on land from the accumulation and compaction of snow that flows downslope or outward due to gravity and the pressure of its own weight.

Gleyed soil

Bluish-green soil developed in wetland conditions.


A scree slope.


A coarse-grained, foliated metamorphic rock marked by bands of light- coloured minerals such as quartz and feldspar which alternate with bands of dark-coloured minerals.

Good Agricultural and Environmental Conditions (GAECs)

Standards that set out cross compliance baseline requirements for farmers to safeguard soils, habitats and landscape features on their farmland. GAECs apply in addition to the underlying obligations under European and UK legislation and apply to anyone who receives payments under the Single Payment Scheme and certain Rural Development schemes.


A deep, narrow valley, typically between mountains or hills, often with water running through it.


Grass on which the vegetation consists predominantly of grass species.

Green economy

Low carbon, resource-efficient and socially inclusive economy.

Green Flag Award

The national standard or benchmark for parks and green spaces within England and Wales.

Green infrastructure

A strategically planned and delivered network comprising the broadest range of high-quality green spaces and other environmental features. It should be designed and managed as a multi-functional resource capable of delivering those ecological services and quality-of-life benefits required by the communities it serves and needed to underpin sustainability.

Green manure

Plants which have been uprooted (and have often already been dug into the soil), often grown primarily to add nutrients and organic matter to the soil and improve its structure.

Green space

Any vegetated land or water within or adjoining an urban area. It includes nature reserves, local parks, sports grounds, cemeteries, school grounds, allotments, commons, woodlands, greenway linkages in urban areas (roadside verges, canals, railway sidings) and countryside immediately adjoining a town that people can access from their homes.


Igneous rock, originally basaltic but altered under high temperature and pressure as a result of being buried in the Earth’s crust.

Greywater recycling

The collection and recycling of wastewater.

Grip blocking

Method of draining moorlands from the 1970s. See also moorland grips.


A sedimentary rock composed of coarse sand grains with inclusions of small pebbles. A coarser version of sandstone.


All water that is below the surface of the ground in the saturation zone and in direct contact with the ground or subsoil.

Grouse moor

An area of managed moorland for the shooting of red grouse.


A low wall built out from the coast into the sea, to prevent the repeated movement of the waves from removing parts of the land.


The gaps and fissures in a limestone pavement caused by water corrosion, forming clints, or limestone ‘slabs’. See also ‘clint’


A deep ditch or channel cut into the earth after a prolonged downpour.


Abbreviation for hectare, see below.


The natural home of an animal or plant.

Habitat corridor

A strip of land to help in connecting wildlife populations separated by human activities (such as roads or urban development) to facilitate the re-establishment of populations; negative effects of reduced genetic diversity.

Habitats Directive

See Special Areas of Conservation.

Halite salts

Rock salts.


Small village or group of houses.

Hammer and furnace pond

A dammed stream or river used to turn a waterwheel. This provides power for furnace bellows and forge hammers used in the making of iron.


A low-level meadow lying in a river valley.


A tributary stream of a river close to or forming parts of its source.


A well-known habitat type in the UK. It occurs on acidic, impoverished, dry sandy or wet peaty soils, and is characterised by the presence of a range of dwarf shrubs. These include various types of heather and gorse, as well as bilberry/blaeberry, cowberry and crowberry.

Hectare (ha)

An area of 10,000 m2; approximately 2.5 acres.


An ancient skill by which sheep are familiarised with and thus stay within one territory on hills or fells, without resorting to fences or walls to pen them in.


A substance that is toxic to plants and is used to destroy unwanted vegetation; commonly known as weedkiller.

Heritage Coast

Coastal landscape defined through agreement with local authorities to help conserve, protect and enhance the natural beauty of coasts; their terrestrial, littoral and marine flora and fauna; and their heritage features, and to facilitate their enjoyment and understanding by the public.

Heritage Lottery Fund

The fund that gives grants to sustain and transform the UK’s heritage using money raised through the National Lottery.

Heritage Trail

Network of natural and cultural heritage sights, activities and visitor facilities.


Shelters of hibernating animals.


Protective case covering a plant bud or animal.

Higher Level Stewardship

A scheme, usually combined with Entry Level Stewardship or Organic Entry Level Stewardship, which aims to deliver significant environmental benefits in high-priority situations and areas. Higher Level Stewardship concentrates on the higher level of management where land managers need advice and support and where agreements can be tailored to local circumstances.

Hill fort

A hill top fortified with ramparts and ditches; often used as a fortified refuge or defended settlement.


A hipped roof is one where all the sides slope downwards to the walls (so there are no gables or vertical elements). A half-hipped roof has a gable, but the upper point of the gable is replaced by a small hip.

Historic parkland

A designed landscape, usually with mature trees set in pasture.

Hobby farm

A small farm operated primarily for pleasure rather than profit.

Hop yard

Hop field.


The care, cultivation and breeding of crops and animals; the management and conservation of resources.


Small V-shaped valleys along with the remains of dams and heaps of spoil that reveal evidence of hushing, a process of damming up water and releasing it to assist with the process of extracting minerals, especially lead ores, in the uplands.


The study of the distribution, conservation and effects of water on the Earth’s surface, in the soil and underlying rocks, and in the atmosphere.

Ice age

An interval of time during which the Earth is substantially cooler than usual and a significant portion of its land surface is covered by glaciers. Ice ages generally last several million years.

Igneous rock

A rock made from molten (melted) or partly molten material that has cooled and solidified.

Impermeable rock

Rock that does not allow water to pass through it.

Improved grassland/pasture

Series of measures taken that lead to a long-term improvement of the quality of grasslands and pasture for livestock grazing and/or silage through addition and regular use of organic and inorganic fertilisers and herbicides and/or through the sowing of grass-seed mixes.

In-bye land

That part of a farm not comprising the hill and rough grazings, the bulk of which is used for arable and grassland production.

In-take land

Land that has been ‘taken’ from moorland to form agriculturally cultivated land.


A variant spelling of enclosure, which is the more common version used today to refer to the results of the Enclosure Acts (see Enclosure Acts).

Indices of Multiple Deprivation

Indices that aggregate a number of indicators of social, economic and housing deprivation into a single deprivation ‘score’ for a discrete area (local authority wards are often used).


The hardening of rocks by heat, and of sediments through cementation or compaction, or both, without the introduction of heat.


A watermeadow or marsh.


A method of reclaiming land by putting up an embankment around a marsh and using the low tide to let it run dry by means of one-way drains set into the embankment, the water running off into a network of dykes.


Occurring between beds, especially of lava flows or sills; occurring between strata of a different origin or character.


A system whereby a number of settlements use common land which, in itself, might lie within the boundaries of more than one manor.

Internationally designated sites

See Natura 2000.


The area of the shore between the highest and lowest tides.

Invasive species

Plants, animals and microbes not native to a region which, when introduced either accidentally or intentionally, are harmful to the environment by out-competing native species for available resources, reproducing prolifically or dominating regions and ecosystems.


Animals lacking a backbone or spinal column.

Iron Age

Period following the Bronze Age when weapons and tools came to be made of iron. Began in the Middle East in about 1100 BC.


International Union for Conservation of Nature.


Joint Nature Conservation Committee.


A period of geological time, dating from about 205 to 142 million years ago.


An irregular mound or ridge of sediment deposited against an ice front.


A topography characterised by caves, sinkholes, disappearing streams and underground drainage systems. Karst forms when groundwater dissolves rock predominantly composed of limestone, dolomite or gypsum.

Kettle hole

A hollow in sand and gravel caused by subsidence where an underlying body of ice has melted.


A mass of igneous rock injected between two rock strata, forcing uplift which results in a dome-like structure.


Relating to or associated with lakes.

Laithe house

A building that combines a laithe (a barn for livestock with crop storage space) with a dwelling for the farm worker usually built of distinctive local stone.

Lammas meadow

Meadow where traditionally animals would not be let on to graze until Lammas day (1st August).

Land use

The human use of land; modification of the natural environment into the built environment.


The visible hills, valleys and other natural features of the Earth’s surface.


An area, as perceived by people, whose character is the result of the action and interaction of natural and/or human factors.

Landscape Character Area

Single, unique and discrete geographical areas of a particular landscape type. A landscape character area has its own individual character and identity, even though it may share the same generic characteristics with other areas of the same type. Landscape character areas will tend to have place-specific names. Landscape character areas may be defined at differing scales, or resolutions for purposes of national, regional or local character assessment. Landscape character areas and types rarely conform to administrative boundaries.

Landscape Character Assessment

A systematic way of analysing and describing landscape identifying areas of distinctive character, classifying and mapping them. The process involves identifying the patterns, elements and features that give landscapes homogeneity and make them different from each other. Landscape character assessment can serve as a framework for decision- making that respects local distinctiveness and a distinctive sense of a place.

Landscape Character Types

Distinct types of landscapes that are relatively homogeneous in character. They are generic in nature in that they may occur in different parts of the country, but wherever they occur, they share broadly similar combinations of patterns, elements and features. They are visually different from one another, those differences being defined by particularly dominant key characteristics. Landscape character types may be defined at differing scales, or resolutions for purposes of national, regional or local character assessment. Landscape character areas and types rarely conform to administrative boundaries.

Landscape Description Unit

Areas of landscape that share broadly similar physical characteristics.


The solution that results from the process of leaching (see below).


The process by which percolating water removes nutrients from the soil.


A man-made watercourse generally used to move water to a watermill or mill pond.

Lenses (sand)

Structural weaknesses which allow water to escape from the chalk through the overlying till to reach the surface.

Less Favoured Area

An EU classification of land considered at a disadvantage. In the UK, it is not used for policy purposes, with both Single Payment Scheme and agri-environment differentials being based on the domestic Severely Disadvantaged Area classification.

Ley/ley grassland

Short-term agricultural grassland, usually sown as part of an arable rotation, to provide hay, silage and grazing for a few years.

Ley pasture rotation

A system whereby the land is alternately used for growing crops and then left fallow for pasture.


A type of clay.

Lias Group

Group consisting mainly of clays, mudstones and limestones of the Late Triassic and Early Jurassic ages, deposited between 180 and 205 million years ago.


A simple slow-growing plant which typically forms a low crust-like, leaf- like or branching growth on rocks, walls and trees.


Light detection and ranging, see below.

Light detection and ranging (LiDAR)

An established method for collecting very dense and accurate elevation levels.


A sedimentary rock composed primarily of calcium carbonate. Some 10–15 per cent of all sedimentary rocks are limestone.

Limestone pavement

A natural karst (see above) landscape consisting of flat limestone which appears to be cut into blocks (clints, see above), an effect caused by water erosion of fissures in the limestone (grykes, see above) and thus resembling a pavement.


Local Nature Partnership, see below.


Local Nature Reserve, see below.


A fertile soil of clay and sand containing humus; a soil with roughly equal proportions of sand, silt and clay.

Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEP)

Partnerships led by local authorities and businesses across natural economic areas. They aim to provide the vision, knowledge and strategic leadership needed to drive sustainable private sector growth and job creation in their area.

Local Geological Sites

Previously known as Regionally Important Geological Sites, sites that are selected by voluntary geo-conservation groups, according to nationally agreed criteria.

Local Nature Partnership (LNP)

Partnership that brings together a diverse range of individuals, businesses and organisations at a local level to create a vision and plan of action of how the natural environment can be taken into account in decision-making.

Local Nature Reserve (LNR)

Declared by local authorities in consultation with Natural England, under Section 21 of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949, a site with wildlife or geological features that is of special interest locally, which gives people opportunities to study, enjoy and have contact with nature.


Sediment which is formed by the accumulation of wind-blown dust.

Longshore drift

The movement of material along a coast by waves that approach at an angle to the shore but recede directly away from it.

Longshore fishing

Fishing along the shore.

Lop and top

The branches and top-cut from a tree that has been felled or has fallen, or which (less commonly) is still standing.


A body of water; a lake (from Anglo-Irish).

Low-input extensive livestock system

A system which uses small inputs of labour, fertilisers and machinery over large areas of natural/semi-natural vegetation, with a relatively low density of livestock.

Low run-off risk land

Land that has an average slope less than 3˚, does not have land drains (other than a sealed impermeable pipe) and is at least 50 m from a watercourse or conduit leading to a watercourse.


Low-lying country; land that is low in relation to surrounding country.

Lowland acid grassland

Semi-natural grassland generally dominated by fine- leaved grasses on nutrient-poor, free-draining soils in the lowlands.

Lowland heathland

Usually formed and maintained by traditional agricultural practices on nutrient-poor acidic, sandy and peaty soils, and typically below 250 m in altitude, with a mixture of dwarf shrubs, particularly heathers and gorses.

Lustre wool

Glossy wool from long-wool sheep.


A bank of earth which builds up on the downslope of a field that has been ploughed over a long period of time.

Managed realignment

The deliberate breaching or removal of existing sea walls, embankments or other hard defences to allow the waters of adjacent coasts, estuaries or rivers to flow onto land behind.

Manorial wastes

Poor quality, uncultivated land owned by the lord of the manor but used by tenants and workers for grazing and gathering materials such as peat and firewood.

Marine Protected Area (MPA)

Any area of intertidal or subtidal terrain including geological and geomorphological features together with its overlying water and associated flora, fauna, historical and cultural features, which have been reserved by law or other effective means to protect part or all of the enclosed environment.


An unconsolidated sedimentary rock or soil consisting of clay and lime.

Marl lake

A waterbody with high levels of dissolved minerals and lacking in nutrients. It water has a very clear appearance.


The fruit of beech, oak, chestnut and other forest trees.

Mat grass

Widespread perennial grass with dense tufts of prickly leaves.


A piece of grassland used for grazing, often cut for hay.


Relating to the Middle Ages.


Water that comes from melting snow or ice.


An era of geological time, dating from about 248 to 65 million years ago (comprising the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous Periods).


Where a species exists in spatially distinct areas but with some movement between these areas, meaning that the overall species is maintained while individual populations rise and fall (to the extent of some individual populations becoming extinct).

Mica lake

Mica is a by-product of the China clay production process, and is then deposited in lagoons or lakes.

Micro-hydro power

Type of hydroelectric power that typically produces up to 100 kW of electricity using the natural flow of water.


A micro-organism, especially a bacterium causing disease or fermentation.

Mill race

Small canalised channel or stream used to divert water for power, for example to power a waterwheel.

Millstone grit

Coarse-grained sandstone of Carboniferous age; any hard rock suitable for making millstones.

Millstone Grit Group

A suite of rocks of Carboniferous age that encompass both the individual sandstone beds and the intervening mudstones, laid down in layers and often giving rise to important landscape features such as outcrops, plateaux and scarps.


A solid, naturally occurring inorganic substance.


Common land used as pasture.


A bog or wetland area.

Monitor farms

Part of the Rural Development Programme for England, a project that aims to engage with hard-to-reach hill farms. It is based on a successful programme introduced in New Zealand to improve farming competitiveness.


Land above the natural tree line, which is the climatically determined upper limit of tree growth. Also referred to as the alpine zone. In England this is generally found above 600 m, although the precise altitude of the potential tree limit varies across the country and depends on local variations in temperature, shelter and humidity.


Semi-natural low shrubby upland vegetation, typically above 250 m altitude and dominated by Calluna and/or Erica species but including blanket bog, cotton grass and some grassland; usually managed by grazing and/or shooting for grouse. Moorland includes open moors and enclosed land on the margins of uplands.

Moorland grips

Small ditches cut to drain the moorland or to facilitate the planting of trees on moorland.

Moorland Line

A boundary that encloses land within England that has been defined as predominantly semi-natural upland vegetation, or predominantly of rock outcrops and semi-natural vegetation, used primarily for rough grazing.


A mass of rocks and sediment carried down and deposited by a glacier, typically as ridges at its edges or extremity.


The form and structure of an organism or one of its parts.


A number of vegetation types within a given area, often having increased environmental value through association with each other.


Marine Protected Area, see above.

Mud and stud

A form of building originating in Lincolnshire. The frame was formed of upright forked logs with cross-beams, and the walls were formed of mud and clay.


A stretch of muddy land left uncovered at low tide.


A layered sedimentary rock composed of clay-sized particles.


Association between a fungus and the roots of a plant in which the fungus and plant exchange commodities required for their growth and survival.


Natura 2000 sites, see below.


Plants and trees, the foliage of which consists of narrow as opposed to ‘broad’ leaves.

National Character Area (NCA) profiles

A total of 159 distinct profiles produced by Natural England to make environmental evidence and information easily available to a wider audience.

National Character Areas (NCAs)

Areas defined at the national level, which describe the geographical, ecological and historical variations in landscape character that make one area different from another. Their boundaries follow natural lines in the landscape rather than administrative boundaries, making them a good decision-making framework for the natural environment.

National Landscape

National Landscapes (legally known as Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty – AONBs) are nationally important landscapes, designated under the 1949 National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act. Their primary purpose is to ‘conserve and enhance natural beauty’.
As of the 22nd November 2023, AONBs were re-branded as ‘National Landscapes’. In legal terms they are still defined as AONBs under the 1949 National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act.

National Nature Reserve (NNR)

A statutory designation. NNRs contain examples of some of the most important natural and semi-natural terrestrial and coastal ecosystems in Great Britain. They are managed to conserve their habitats or to provide special opportunities for scientific study of the habitats, communities and species represented within them. This designation is for land areas; the equivalent marine designation is Marine Nature Reserve.

National Park

Extensive tract of countryside designated under the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 for reasons of its natural beauty and for the opportunities it affords for open air recreation. The designation supports the conservation and enhancement of its landscapes, wildlife and cultural heritage, and the promotion of understanding and enjoyment of its special qualities.

National Trails

Trails that provide opportunities to walk or, in some places, ride a horse or cycle through some of the most outstanding scenery in England.

National Trust

Charity that works to preserve and protect historic places and spaces.

Natura 2000 (N2K)

A network of protected areas established under the European Union’s Habitats and Birds Directives.

Ecosystem services

The essential services and benefits that are derived from a fully functioning natural environment, including the management of basic resources such as water, and the sequestration of carbon.

Natural England

A non-departmental public body, the general purpose of which, according to the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006, is ‘to ensure that the natural environment is conserved, enhanced and managed for the benefit of present and future generations, thereby contributing to sustainable development’.

Natural Signature

The unique natural identity of a landscape area, derived from an analysis of natural landscape features and underlying geology.


See National Character Areas (NCAs).


A period of geological time, dating from about 24 to 1.8 million years ago.


Relating to the later part of the Stone Age when ground or polished stone weapons and implements prevailed. Also called the New Stone Age.


Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006.

New Stone Age

See Neolithic.


A field of moorland newly placed under cultivation. See also in-take land.


Previously known as the National Farmers Union, the principal UK body for those in the agricultural industry. The union provides professional representation and services to its farmer and grower members.

Nitrate vulnerable zone (NVZ)

Areas of land where the groundwaters are vulnerable to pollution from nitrates applied to farmed land. Farmers with land in NVZs have to follow mandatory rules to tackle nitrate loss from agriculture.


National Nature Reserve, see above.

No-take zone

An area from which the removal of any resources, living or dead, is prohibited.

Nonconformist chapel

A chapel belonging to nonconformists, members of a Protestant church which dissents from the established Church of England.


To provide a nucleus for; to act as a nucleus for.


Nitrate vulnerable zone, see above.


An environment that offers little to sustain life and is lacking in nutrients.


Made up of or containing oolite (see below).


A limestone consisting largely of spherical grains of calcium carbonate. Each grain is made up of concentric layers of calcium carbonate known as ooliths.

Open access land

Under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, all mapped open country and registered common land.

Open cast mining

Mining in which minerals, especially coal, are taken from the surface rather than deep under ground.

Open country

Areas mapped by the Countryside Agency as land that is wholly or predominantly mountain, moor, heath or down and open to public access under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000.


Rock formed from the submarine eruption of the earth’s oceanic crust and underlying mantle.


A period of geological time, dating from about 495 to 443 million years ago.

Organic Entry Level Stewardship

An agri-environment scheme that provides funding to farmers and other land managers in England with certified organic land, or land under conversion to organic production, in return for delivering environmental management on their organic land.


A surface exposure of a particular unit of rock or sediment.


A walled road.


In relation to a manor, an estate or farm which was physically detatched from the manor but which belonged to the lord of the manor.


An extension or addition to the side of a building.


Sediment consisting of sand and gravel that is deposited by meltwater in front of a glacier.

Outwash fan

Fan-shaped body of sediments deposited by braided streams (see above) from a melting glacier.

Over-abstraction of water

Removal of so much water from a natural source of supply that it results in adverse impacts on water quantity and/or quality.


To live through the winter outside the normal habitat, for example sheep moving from uplands to lowland areas where food is more available and weather less harsh.


Grazing of land which significantly reduces the growth, quality or species composition of the desired plant communities.

Oxbow lake

A curved lake formed from a horseshoe bend in a river when the river over time takes a different course.


An environment prevailing at a particular time in the geological past; ancient or past environment.


A period of geological time, dating from about 65 to 25 million years ago.


Roofing tile of fired clay with an S-shaped section, fitted to overlap its neighbour.


Relating to the largest order of birds, whose common feature is that their feet are adapted for perching.


Used for or related to the keeping or grazing of sheep or cattle.


Plantations on Ancient Woodland Sites, see below.


Compressed, partially decomposed vegetation formed in a waterlogged environment. Dried peat can be burned as fuel.


The transition between rural and urban landscapes, or the interface between landscape and townscape.


Referring to strata and structures that slope on every side from a common centre, forming a dome or basin.


Relating to or denoting an area adjacent to a glacier or ice sheet or otherwise subject to repeated freezing and thawing.

Permanent grassland

Land that is used to grow grasses or other herbaceous forage naturally or through cultivation, which has not been subject to ploughing for at least five years.

Permanent pasture

Land used to grow grasses or other herbaceous forage either naturally (self-seeded) or through cultivation (sown), which has not been included in the crop rotation for five years or more.


Of a material or membrane, allowing liquid or gases to pass through it.


A period of geological time, dating from about 290 to 248 million years ago.

Permissive access

Where access is granted by permission of the landowner as part of an agreement, for example where access is purchased via agri-environment schemes.

Permissive route

Routes (usually footpaths or bridleways) along which the landowner is happy for people to walk or ride but which the landowner does not intend to become public rights of way. Many permissive routes are created as part of the Environmental Stewardship Scheme, administered by Natural England.


An alcoholic drink made from the fermented juice of pears.

Petrifying spring

A spring whose water is rich in calcium bicarbonate, often found in areas underlain by limestone. On contact with the air, carbon dioxide is lost, leaving a hard deposit of calcium carbonate, or tufa.


The study of the timing of natural events especially as affected by climate. These include dates of flowering, leafing and seed set in plants and the arrival of bird and insect migrants.


Relating to physical geography.


A large group of pathogens that cause diseases in plants, including many species of tree. The name is derived from Greek and literally means ‘plant destroyer’.


Artistic concept and style of the late 18th and early 19th centuries characterized by a preoccupation with the pictorial values of architecture and landscape in combination with each other.


An animal ‘pound’ where stray animals could be held until claimed by their owners or sold if they were not claimed.


A dome-shaped hill formed when the hydrostatic pressure of freezing groundwater causes the upheaval of a layer of frozen ground.


Woodland where most of the trees have been planted usually for timber production but sometimes for shooting purposes.

Plantations on Ancient Woodland Sites (PAWS)

When ancient woodland sites have been planted up with conifers or broadleaved trees for timber production purposes. See also ancient woodland.


An area of fairly level high ground.


An area of flat, dried-up land from which water evaporates quickly.


See Quaternary.


Small pieces of land laid out in regular plots on which a number of self-built settlements were established in the south-east of England from the late 1800s up to the Second World War.


An extremely large body of intrusive igneous rock (for example the Dartmoor Granite).


Soil low in fertility through the process of leaching, often associated with heath or coniferous woodland.

Point-source discharge

A specific point that discharges into the environment (for example a wastewater overflow pipe discharging into a stream).


Cutting off the top and branches of a tree to encourage new growth.


To carry pollen or deposit pollen on a stigma, ovule, flower or plant to enable fertilisation.

Portland stone

Limestone from the Isle of Portland in Dorset. It is a highly prized building material.


An period of geological time, dating from the consolidation of the Earth’s crust around 4,600 million years ago to about 545 million years ago.


Relating to or denoting the period before written records.

Priority habitats

The 1,149 species and 65 habitats that have been listed as priorities for conservation action under the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (UK BAP).


Of streams, deposits and other features, being immediately in front of or just beyond the outer limits of a glacier or ice sheet.

Protected landscapes

Collective term for National Parks, National Landscapes (legally Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty – AONBs) and Heritage Coasts, although the latter are ‘defined’ rather than designated.


Public rights of way.

Public Service Agreements

Agreements first introduced in 1998, with the aim of modernising and improving the Government’s performance on the issues that mattered most to the public – including education, health, crime and the environment.


Typically a large, deep pit from which stone or other materials are extracted.


The period corresponding to the last 1.8 million years of the Earth’s history and approximately to the time of the most recent and extensive glaciation. Also referred to as the Pleistocene.

Ramsar sites

Internationally important wetland areas designated under the 1971 Ramsar Convention on ‘Wetlands of International Importance Especially as Waterfowl Habitat’.


Rural Development Programme for England, see below.


A long, straight boundary made out of stone, dating from the Bronze Age.

Recessive colours

Colours which fade into the background (as opposed to dominant colours, which always stand out), so forming blurry or muted tones behind a focal point.


Moving in or forming a straight line.

Red Data Book

An international list maintained by the International Union for Conservation of Nature in which species are classified into different categories of perceived risk. Each Red Data Book usually deals with a specific group of animals or plants (for instance, reptiles, insects or mosses).


An area of water or marshland dominated by reeds which provide valuable habitat for plants and birds, as well as capturing in-flowing water; they may be harvested for purposes such as thatching.

Reef knoll

A large pile of calcareous material on land that accumulated on the ancient sea floor.

Regional Landscape Character Area

Distinct geographical areas that describe recognisable areas of landscape.

Regionally Important Geological/Geomorphological Sites (RIGS)

Non- statutory designations for the protection of regionally or locally important geological or geomorphological sites. RIGS are selected on a local or regional basis according to nationally agreed criteria.

Registered common land

Land registered as common land under the Commons Registration Act 1965 and whose registration under that Act has become final.


A thing that has survived from an earlier time or in a primitive form.


A dark and fertile lime-rich soil lying above a calcareous layer, typical of grassland on chalk or limestone.

Renewable energy

Natural energy that can be used again and again and will not run out. Sources of renewable energy include wind, water and solar power.


A large natural or artificial lake used as a source for water supply.


Watercourses or ditches.

Rhôs pasture

An enclosed species-rich purple moor-grass and rush pasture.


A drowned river valley that forms a long, narrow river inlet.

Ridge and furrow

A series of long, raised ridges that arose from the continued cultivation of land for arable crops. The technique is characteristic of the medieval period.


A line formed along the highest points of a mountain range; an area of higher ground separating two adjacent streams or watersheds.


The crest that extends along the highest corner of a ridge.


A short, fairly shallow stream in which the water flows at relatively high speed.

Rigg and furrow

Similar to ridge and furrow except that a spade is used rather than a plough.


Regionally Important Geological/Geomorphological Sites, see above.


Along the edge of a waterway; the interface between a river or stream and the land.

River cobbles

Large stones that have been smoothed and rounded by river water.


Relating to or situated on a river or river bank.

Roach stone

Fossil-filled Portland stone.

Roll back provision

As the coast erodes, the right of way automatically moves inland with the coastline.


The period of the Roman occupation of Britain, 43–410 AD.

Romantic Movement

Movement that lasted from about 1784 to 1830. Romantic writing, particularly by poets such as William Wordsworth, examines the role of the natural world and its importance as a stimulus to thinking.

Rough grazing

Extensive grasslands typically above 250 m altitude and including a variety of grass species maintained by livestock grazing.

Royal Chase

Land used for hunting with certain rights held for the Royal Family. See also chase.


Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.


Rainfall not absorbed by soil.

Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE)

Run by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, a programme that aims to improve competitiveness in the agriculture and forestry sector; safeguard and enhance the rural environment; and foster competitive and sustainable rural businesses and thriving rural communities.

S41 species

Species listed in Section 41 of the Natural Environment and Rural Communities (NERC) Act 2006, which lists species and habitats of principal importance in England.


An area of coastal flats subject to periodic flooding and evaporation.


Special Areas of Conservation, see below.

Saline lagoon

An area of shallow, coastal saline water, wholly or partially separated from the sea by sandbanks, shingle or, less frequently, rocks.


A fish of the salmon family.

Salt marsh

An area of coastal grassland that is regularly flooded by seawater and dominated by salt-tolerant grasses and herbs such as sea aster and sea lavender, which trap and bind sediments. Salt marshes provide valuable feeding and breeding areas for both wildfowl and waders.


Living in the sea or in water that contains salt.

Saltwater fishing

Fishing carried out in the sea.


A loose granular substance, typically pale yellowish brown, resulting from the erosion of siliceous and other rocks and forming a major constituent of beaches, river beds, the seabed and deserts.


A rock typically composed of sand grains that range in diameter from 0.0625 (1/16)mm to 2 mm.

Saproxylic invertebrates

Invertebrates that are dependent on dead or decaying wood (or dependent on other organisms that are themselves dependent on dead wood) at some stage during their life cycle.

Sarsen stones

Sandstone blocks, the post-glacial remains of a silcrete cap (a hard rock formed of sand bound by a silica cement) which once covered much of southern England. They can be found in linear patterns, called ‘sarsen trains’.


Sustainable Catchment Management Programme, see below.

Scheduled Monument

Nationally important sites and monuments that have been given legal protection by being placed on a list or ‘schedule’. English Heritage takes the lead in identifying sites in England that should be placed on the schedule by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport.


The surface remains of iron ore deposits.


See talus.


An area of uncultivated land that is covered with shrubs and small trees.

Sea pen

Colonial marine cnidarians belonging to the order Pennatulacea. Sea pens are grouped with the octocorals (soft corals).

Secondary woodland

Woodland that has developed on land that at some time in the past was not wooded.

Section 16 under CRoW

Section 16 of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, which makes it possible for the owner of land of any kind voluntarily to dedicate it, permanently and irrevocably, for public access on foot under the Act.

Section 35 National Nature Reserves

National Nature Reserves (NNRs) that are wholly or partly managed by bodies other than Natural England and approved under Section 35 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

Sedimentary rock

A rock made from the consolidation of solid fragments, as of other rocks or organic remains, or by precipitation of minerals from solution.

Seed bank

An aggregation of ungerminated seed potentially capable of replacing adult plants dying a natural or unnatural death.

Semi-improved grassland

Grassland that has had some agricultural improvements made to it, such as drainage or some fertilisation, but where some botanical interest is maintained through a mixed sward.

Semi-natural habitat

A habitat that although altered by land management still sustains relatively natural communities of plants and animals.

Sense of place

Combination of features and elements of an area that give a stretch of land a distinctive character as perceived by people, and that makes it different from other areas.


Statement of Environmental Opportunity, see below.


See carbon sequestration.

Shake hole

A steep-sided depression found in limestone landscapes and formed by the ground falling into underground cavities.

Shallow soil

Soil that is less than 20–70 cm deep.

Shared grazing

Communal pasture where graziers have a legal entitlement to graze (for example, a pasture used jointly by tenants) but where the land is not registered as common land.


Narrow belts of woodland that stretch out along field boundaries.


A tract of land for grazing sheep.

Shell midden

Type of archaeological site made almost entirely of mussel shells.


A plantation usually made up of one or more rows of trees or shrubs planted in such a manner as to provide shelter from the wind and to protect soil from erosion. They are commonly planted around the edges of fields on farms.


A hut, often within an enclosure, found singly or in groups in areas that may be considered upland or marginal in relation to their local environment. They were originally constructed to provide temporary summer accommodation for herdsmen and their families.

Short rotation coppice

Densely planted, high-yielding varieties of fast-growing species such as willow or poplar, harvested on a two- to five-year cycle, although commonly every three years. The roots (or stools) are not disturbed and send up shoots, which are cut down to ground level and used for fuel.


A sheet of rock intruded between and parallel with the existing strata.


Fine-grained sedimentary rock consisting of consolidated silt.


Period of geological time, dating from about 443 to 417 million years ago.


The management of woods and forests.

Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)

Nationally important sites forming a network of the best and most representative examples of our wildlife and geodiversity features. Selected and designated by Natural England and afforded protection under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended).


An area of low coastal rocks.


A marsh or shallow body of water which periodically fills and drains.


The process by which larger soil particles break down into smaller particles when they are immersed in water, thus adversely affecting the stability of the soil.


Fine-grained, foliated metamorphic rock that develops from clay-rich sediments and tends to split into thin, flat sheets, often used for roofing.


An agricultural holding that is smaller than a farm. There is no legal definition of the size of a smallholding.


Small- to medium-sized enterprise.


Involving social and economic factors.

Soil erosion

Removal of topsoil faster than the soil-forming process can replace it, due to natural, animal or human activity such as overgrazing.

Soil Protection Review

Review, the purpose of which is to tackle degradation threats to soil. Anyone who receives support under the Single Payment Scheme or certain schemes under the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) must meet the Good Agricultural and Environmental Conditions (GAEC) standards for soil management and protection.


An area of soil that differs as a result of archaeological features. The soilmark might have a large proportion of slag and charcoal, and can be visible in aerial photography.

Soke dyke

A ditch or drain running parallel with an embankment, its function being to deal with any water that soaks through from the river or drain on the other side of the embankment.


The slow movement down a slope of water-saturated soil or sediment as a result of recurrent freezing and thawing of the ground, affected by gravity.


Special Protection Areas, see below.

Special Areas of Conservation (SAC)

Areas designated under European Communities Directive 92/43/EEC, known as the Habitats Directive. This requires the conservation of important, rare or threatened habitats and species across Europe.

Special Protection Areas (SPAs)

Areas designated under the European Communities Directive 79/409/EEC, known as the Birds Directive, to conserve the habitats of certain migratory or rare birds.


A small copse or grove.

Springline settlement

Where human settlement develops along a line of springs because of the ready water supply. Springlines are formed where a ridge of permeable rock lies over impermeable rock at the boundary between the two layers.


Sites of Special Scientific Interest, see above.


Referring to slowly permeable, seasonally waterlogged soils.

Statement of Environmental Opportunity (SEO)

Any one of a range of opportunities outlined in each National Character Area profile produced by National England, together with the actions that can be taken to achieve it and its impact on ecosystem service provision.

Stepping-stone habitat

Patches of habitat which ease movement of wildlife through the landscape without necessarily creating direct links.


A fence or other barrier to prevent livestock from straying.

Storm wave

A rise above normal water level on the open coast due to the action of wind stress on the water surface.


Layers of sedimentary rocks.


The branch of geology concerned with the order and relative position of strata and their relationship to the geological timescale.

Strip lynchet

A bank of earth that builds up on the downslope of a field ploughed for a long period of time. The disturbed soil slips down the hillside to create a ‘positive’ lynchet, while the area reduced in level becomes a ‘negative’ lynchet.


A calcareous mound built up of layers of lime-secreting cyanobacteria and trapped sediment, found in Precambrian rocks as the earliest known fossils.


Having an overall (but not exactly) rectangular shape.


Sustainable Drainage Systems, see below.

Supplementary feeding

Additional feeding of livestock, usually in winter months or in periods of severe weather.

Surface water

Water such as coastal waters, estuaries, canals, lakes, ponds, rivers, streams and ditches which contain free-flowing water and also temporarily dry ditches and blind ditches.

‘Surveyor enclosed’ fields

Areas of 18th- or 19th-century enclosure where boundaries were decided by a surveyor, leading to regular field patterns.

Sustainable Catchment Management Programme (SCaMP)

The implementation of farm plans that reduce grazing pressure and of restoration work on the peat bogs, both of which aim to improve habitats and raw water quality.

Sustainable drainage systems (SuDS)

Formerly called sustainable urban drainage systems, an approach to managing rainfall and run-off in urban areas using interventions such as grassed swales, soakaways and porous pavements, with a view to replicating natural drainage. SuDS also aim to control pollution and flooding, and often provide landscape and environmental enhancement.

Sustainable/sustainable development

Meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.


A low or hollow place, especially a marshy depression between ridges.


Controlled burning.


A natural depression or hole, also known as a sinkhole.


The vegetation that covers the soil, usually grass.


A concave fold in rock, the central part of which contains the youngest rocks.


A pile of rock fragments lying at the bottom of the cliff or steep slope from which they have been derived. Also know as scree.


A small upland lake sometimes formed from glaciers (from Old Norse).


Groups or ranks in a biological classification into which related organisms are classified.


A period of geological time, dating from about 65 to 1.8 million years ago (comprising both the Palaeogene and the Neogene Periods).

Thames Gateway Green Grid

A delivery mechanism within the Thames Gateway to integrate existing and new green spaces and create networks of cycleways, bridleways and paths to make the region a more attractive place to live and work.


See boulder clay.

Timber frame

A house or other structure that has a wooden frame.

Tin streaming

A method of extracting tin. Tin streams are deposits of tin-rich rocks which formed in river valleys and subsequently were covered by sand and gravel and then peat and leaf mould. Tin streaming involved removing this overburden and then using diverted streams to wash out the lighter sands and silts, thus leaving the heavier tin-rich rocks exposed.


A ridge of beach material (typically sand), built by wave action, that connects an island to the mainland.


The set of physical features such as mountains, valleys and the shapes of landforms that characterise a given landscape.


The movement of people and livestock between fixed winter and summer pasture.


A period of geological time, dating from about 248 to 205 million years ago.

Tufa formation

The process by which tufa, a type of limestone, is formed through the precipitation of carbonate minerals from waterbodies. See also petrifying spring.

Tussocky sward

Grassland that is characterised by its dense tufts of grass.


UK Biodiversity Action Plan, see below.

UK Biodiversity Action Plan (UK BAP)

Plan, published in 1994, which was the UK Government’s response to signing the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit. It sets out a programme for the conservation of the UK’s biodiversity.


Formerly known as the UK Climate Impacts Programme, a programme that supports adaptation to the unavoidable impacts of a changing climate.

Uncropped land

Land on which no crops are grown.


Where annual growth is not being fully utilised, or where scrub or coarse vegetation is becoming evident, and this is detrimental to the environmental interests of the site.


Shrubs and small trees growing beneath taller trees.


United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation.

UNESCO Global Geopark

A UNESCO programme established in 1998, Geoparks aims to protect geodiversity and to promote geological heritage to the general public as well as to support sustainable economic development of the area, primarily through the development of geological tourism.

Unimproved grassland

Grassland that has not been ploughed and has not received artificial fertiliser in the last 20 years. [

Upland hay meadows

Species-rich plant communities conforming to the National Vegetation Classification types MG3 Anthoxanthum odoratum-Geranium sylvaticum grassland and MG8 Cynosurus cristatus-Caltha palustris grassland occurring in upland areas in northern England.


Refers to areas of mountain, moor and heath, high ground above the upper limits of enclosed farmland, largely covered by dry and wet dwarf shrub heath species and rough grassland. The Government has adopted the definition of land categorised as Less Favoured Areas, a European designation used for areas with natural and socio-economic disadvantages which in the UK largely corresponds to areas of uplands farming systems.

Uplands Entry Level Stewardship

A strand of Environmental Stewardship supporting England’s Severely Disadvantaged Areas.

Uplands Policy Review

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs-led review of policies affecting the uplands.


Small-scale commercial cattle farms dating from medieval times associated with the grazing lands in the northern uplands. They were mostly set up by major landowners in order to generate revenue from their estates.


Judicial officer of a royal forest.


Relating to the common name of an animal or plant; or built in the local style of ordinary houses, rather than grand style.


A large group distinguished by the possession of a backbone or spinal column, including mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish.

Veteran trees

Trees which, because of their age, size and condition, are of exceptional cultural, landscape or nature conservation value. See also ancient trees.


Land that is periodically flooded by a river or stream.


Spiced ale or mulled wine drunk during celebrations for Twelfth Night and Christmas Eve.

Water Framework Directive (WFD)

A directive for the protection and improvement of the quality of surface freshwater (including lakes, streams and rivers), groundwaters and any dependent ecosystems, estuaries and coastal waters out to 1 mile from low water.


Body of water forming a physiographical feature, for example a sea, lake or reservoir.


An area or ridge of land that separates waters flowing to different river catchments, basins or seas.

Wave base

The maximum depth at which a water wave’s passage causes significant water motion. For water depths larger than the wave base, bottom sediments are no longer stirred by the wave motion above.


The process by which exposure to atmospheric agents, such as air or moisture, causes rocks and minerals to break down. This process takes place at or near the Earth’s surface. Weathering entails little or no movement of the material that it loosens from the rocks and minerals.

Wet flush

An area of marshy vegetation, often on a slope and often associated with a spring.

Wet meadow

Grassland with waterlogged soil near the surface but without standing water for most of the year.

Wet woodland

Woodland occurring on poorly drained or seasonally wet soils, usually with alder, birch and willow as the predominant tree species, but sometimes including ash, oak, pine and beech on the drier riparian areas.


A lowland area such as a marsh or swamp that is saturated with moisture.


Water Framework Directive, see above.


World Heritage Site, see below.


A large, destructive fire that spreads quickly over woodland or brush.

Wind farm

An area of land with a group of energy-producing windmills or wind turbines.

Withy beds

Willow plantations set out in rows with gaps between the trees to facilitate harvesting.


A piece of high, open, uncultivated land or moor.


A small part of a forest or woodland capable of small-scale production of forest products.

World Heritage Site (WHS)

A site designated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) for its internationally important cultural or natural interest. Such a site requires appropriate management and protection measures.