National Character Area 103

Malvern Hills - Analysis: Ecosystem Services

Analysis supporting Statements of Environmental Opportunity

The following analysis section focuses on a selection of the key provisioning, regulating and cultural ecosystem goods and services for this NCA. These are underpinned by supporting services such as photosynthesis, nutrient cycling, soil formation and evapo-transpiration. Supporting services perform an essential role in ensuring the availability of all ecosystem services.

Bodiversity and geodiversity are crucial in supporting the full range of ecosystem services provided by this landscape. Wildlife and geologically-rich landscapes are also of cultural value and are included in this section of the analysis. This analysis shows the projected impact of Statements of Environmental Opportunity on the value of nominated ecosystem services within this landscape.

Further analysis on landscape attributes and opportunities for this NCA is contained in the Analysis: Landscape Attributes & Opportunities section.

Natural Capital

Further information on Natural Capital within this NCA is contained in the Natural Capital and Key Ecosystem Services section.

The Malvern Hills NCA provides a wide range of benefits to society. Each is derived from the attributes and processes (both natural and cultural features) within the area. These benefits are realised through the ‘ecosystem services’ that flow from the ‘ecosystem assets’ or ‘natural capital’ of a place.

Natural capital means ‘the elements of nature that directly or indirectly produce value to people, including ecosystems, species, freshwater, land, minerals, the air and oceans, as well as natural processes and functions’ (Natural Capital Committee, 2017).

Ecosystem Services Main Beneficiaries

The below map displays the main beneficiaries of each ecosystem service identified within this NCA and neighbouring NCAs. These range from being of international importance to local importance. Some services have not been assessed within all NCAs, and therefore in some NCAs are displayed as “N/A” (not applicable).

 

Main Beneficiaries Map

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Ecosystem service analysis

The following sections show the analysis used to determine key Ecosystem Service opportunities within the area. These opportunities have been combined with the analysis of landscape opportunities to create Statements of Environmental Opportunity. Please note that the following analysis is based upon available data and current understanding of ecosystem services. It does not represent a comprehensive local assessment. Quality and quantity of data for each service is variable locally and many of the services listed are not yet fully researched or understood. Therefore analysis and opportunities may change upon publication of further evidence and better understanding of the inter-relationship between services at a local level.

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

Provisioning Services

Food provision

Assets/attributes: main contributors to service –

  • Soils, livestock, mixed and cereal farms, orchards

State – The soils range from thin acidic soils on the Malverns, through deeper, neutral soils over the Old Red Sandstone to calcareous soils on Silurian shales and siltstones. The landscape’s predominantly pastoral character is supported by its breakdown of farm types: 41 grazing livestock holdings (39 percent), 13 horticulture holdings (10.4 percent) and 10 mixed farming holdings (9.5 percent). Farms classified as ‘other’ (likely to be small- holdings) are numerous – accounting for 29 holdings (27.6 percent).

Main beneficiary – Regional

Analysis – The Malvern Hills has a diverse farming industry with many small farms and specialist growers. Sheep and cattle grazing dominates, and other food produced in the area includes cereals, potatoes, dairy products, vegetables, salads, pork, poultry, eggs, cheese, oils and herbs. The area is part of an important drinks producing zone in the west of England that produces fruit juices, beer, bottled water, perry and cider. However, the demand for more cider and juice is being met by new bush orchards being planted rather than traditional orchards. There is a need to encourage traditional orchards in appropriate areas that will enhance pollination, biodiversity, genetic diversity and sense of place.

Opportunities – Work together with farmers, land owners and local communities to manage, restore and expand traditional orchards to encourage connectivity, biodiversity and pollination in appropriate locations.

Principal services offered by opportunities

  • Food provision
  • Biodiversity
  • Sense of place/inspiration
  • Sense of history
  • Pollination
  • Genetic diversity
  • Climate regulation

Timber provision

Assets/attributes: main contributors to service –

  • Woodland including ancient woodland
  • Orchards
  • Currently the main source of commercial timber is around 500 ha of coniferous woodland in small blocks around the NCA

State – Woodland covers some 21 percent of the area with a high proportion of this occurring on ancient woodland sites, either as broadleaved or mixed woodland, with some 35 percent subject to replanting, for example at Crewshill, Ravenshill and Frith Wood.

Main beneficiary – Regional

Analysis – Provision is currently high but could be enhanced if some sites come into active management, with a range of management options including non intervention. This could provide increased opportunities for biodiversity, climate regulation and reinforce sense of place.

Forestry Commission research indicates that there is scope for an additional 72-170 ha (average 120 ha) of woodland in the NCA.

Opportunities – Opportunity to work with local land managers and communities to manage the many under managed woodlands in this NCA to provide more timber and enhance biodiversity.

Restock planted ancient woodland sites with native hard woods.

Increase cover of woodland/ scrub and orchards.

Principal services offered by opportunities

  • Timber provision
  • Biodiversity
  • Climate regulation
  • Sense of place/inspiration
  • Regulating soil erosion
  • Regulating soil quality
  • Regulating water quality

Water availability

Assets/attributes: main contributors to service –

  • Reservoir
  • Brooks
  • Drinking water from springs

State – There are no major rivers in this NCA, although the River Teme passes briefly through the north of the NCA and joins the River Severn to the east of the NCA. Several brooks and streams run through the NCA, such as Leigh Brook. The NCA does not overlay a major aquifer but has an important spring line at the base of the slopes. The British Camp reservoir lies to the south of Little Malvern.

Main beneficiary – Local

Analysis – There is ‘no water available’ from the limited surface and groundwater resources in this NCA (Environment Agency, Teme Catchment Abstraction Management Strategy, September 2005., & Environment Agency, Severn Vale Catchment Abstraction Management Strategy, January 2008). In the north and west of the NCA, surface and groundwater resources have been assessed as ‘water available’. However, high quality drinking water is bottled from the Holywell Spring and this link between the brand and the landscape could be developed.

Opportunities – Support measures to maintain and improve soil structure to increase permeability and water retention by the soil.

Support the local bottled water industry to make strong links between the brand and the landscape that it is derived from.

Principal services offered by opportunities

  • Water availability
  • Regulating water quality
  • Regulating soil erosion
  • Regulating soil quality

Genetic diversity

No information available.

Biomass energy

Assets/attributes: main contributors to service –

  • Existing woodland cover 21 percent of the area

State – Woodland covers some 21 percent of the area with a high proportion of this occurring on ancient woodland sites, either as broadleaved or mixed woodland.

Main beneficiary – Regional

Analysis – There is the potential for significant provision of biomass by bringing unmanaged woodland under management. There is a high potential yield for miscanthus in the NCA, and a medium potential yield for short rotation coppice.

Sensitive management of existing unmanaged woodland offers potential for wood fuel. Dead wood is a critical component of broadleaved woodland for biodiversity.

Opportunities – There is an opportunity to increase production of biomass through introducing management in currently unmanaged broadleaved woodlands/orchards and encouraging miscanthus where appropriate.

Increase cover of woodland/scrub and orchards.

Principal services offered by opportunities

  • Biomass energy
  • Biodiversity
  • Climate regulation
  • Regulating soil erosion
  • Regulating soil quality
  • Regulating water quality

Regulating Services

Climate regulation

Assets/attributes: main contributors to service –

  • Woodlands, grassland heathland
  • Trees/avenues in Colwall and settlements, and large gardens cool the area

State – Woodland covers some 21 percent of the area, 38 ha of lowland heath (less than 1 percent of NCA).

The soils in this NCA have a low carbon content of between 0-5 percent. There will however, be localised storage of soil carbon associated with woodland and grassland habitats (including 1,839 ha of priority habitats).

Main beneficiary – Local

Analysis – Currently there is little storage of carbon due to the nature of the soils in this NCA. Where there is increased storage under woodlands, grasslands and heathlands there is an opportunity to maintain the carbon storage potential of the area and increase it through the extension of these habitats.

Opportunities – Maintain and extend woodland and grassland to maximise carbon storage and benefit biodiversity.

Increase cover of woodland/scrub and orchards.

Principal services offered by opportunities

  • Climate regulation
  • Biodiversity
  • Sense of place/ inspiration
  • Regulating soil erosion
  • Regulating soil quality
  • Regulating water quality

Regulating coastal erosion and flooding

No information available.

Regulating water quality

Assets/attributes: main contributors to service –

  • Soils, semi- natural habitats

State – For information regarding the current state of water quality within this NCA, refer to the Environment Agency (Draft river basin management plan maps).

Main beneficiary – Local

Analysis – Improvements are required to the water quality through selective reduction in inputs from point source pollution through better land management/stock husbandry and the buffering of water courses which should help address specific pollutant issues in water bodies.

Opportunities – Increase cover of woodland/scrub and orchards.

Reduce nutrient inputs through improvements to public and private sewage treatment.

Manage nutrients in farmsteads and improved grassland.

Principal services offered by opportunities

  • Regulating water quality
  • Regulating soil erosion
  • Biodiversity
  • Regulating soil quality

Regulating water flow

Assets/attributes: main contributors to service –

  • Rivers

State – There is a relatively low level of fluvial flood risk in this NCA, generally in small pockets that are fairly far apart (Environment Agency, River Severn Catchment Flood Management Plan, Summary Report, December 2009). There is not a significant risk of fluvial flooding in Great Malvern (Environment Agency, Flood Map, 2010). Ledbury is at risk of flooding (from the River Leadon, just downstream of this NCA), and surface water flooding is an additional problem (Environment Agency, River Severn Catchment Flood Management Plan, Summary Report, December 2009).

Main beneficiary – Local

Analysis – A relatively low issue for this NCA however, it is an important area for its’ potential contribution to attenuation of flooding in downstream Ledbury, particularly through land management which increases vegetation cover (particularly trees/ scrub) and surface roughness to increase evapotranspiration and infiltration and slow flows. These actions will also increase biodiversity, water availability and improve soil quality through the expansion, restoration and siting of semi natural habitats, which have a higher water storage potential.

Opportunities – Seek to restore ad extend semi-natural habitats. Seek opportunities to incorporate grass buffer strips and restore hedgerows across slopes within river catchments.

Increase cover of woodland/scrub and orchards.

Improve soil quality to increase water retention and reduce runoff.

Work with the Environment Agency, water companies, local authorities, highways and developers to create more sustainable urban drainage to tackle surface water flooding.

Principal services offered by opportunities

  • Regulating water flow
  • Biodiversity
  • Water availability
  • Regulating soil erosion
  • Regulating soil quality
  • Regulating water quality

Regulating soil quality

Assets/attributes: main contributors to service –

  • Soils
  • Woodland
  • Heathland
  • Hedgerows

State – Slowly permeable and seasonally wet soils over 37 percent of the area are susceptible to poaching and compaction which can exacerbate run-off problems.

Elsewhere, freely draining loamy soils on steep slopes can poach easily when wet.

Main beneficiary – Local

Analysis – It is important to minimise compaction, which can arise from over-grazing, trafficking or other mechanised activities. These will tend to exacerbate run-off problems as well as damaging soil structure. These soils may have limited potential for increasing organic matter levels by management interventions this in turn should have enhanced benefits for biodiversity.

Opportunities – There is scope to employ minimal tillage and incorporate organic matter to increase level of soil organic matter and relieve soil compaction over a proportion of the NCA.

Increase cover of woodland/scrub and orchards.

Managing access to historic sites, ensuring appropriate grazing levels to prevent erosion and compaction.

Principal services offered by opportunities

  • Regulating soil quality
  • Regulating soil erosion
  • Regulating water quality
  • Biodiversity
  • Water availability

Regulating soil erosion

Assets/attributes: main contributors to service –

  • Soils
  • Woodlands
  • Hedgerows
  • Orchards

State – Over a third of the NCA area is covered by seasonally wet acid loamy and clayey soils that have a low risk of erosion. However these soils are easily compacted by livestock and machinery. Elsewhere soils are at risk of erosion on steeper slopes, particularly under conditions of continuous arable cultivation.

Main beneficiary – Regional

Analysis – The areas likely to be at risk are the steeper slopes and in areas of intensive grassland and cultivated fields. Strengthening the hedgerow and orchard network would help to improve soil health and reduce run off. Strengthening the hedgerow and orchard network would add to the sense of place as well as increasing biodiversity.

Opportunities – Working together with land managers there is scope to reinstate and strengthen the hedgerow and orchard network.

Increase cover of woodland/scrub and orchards targeted at areas of high soil erosion risk.

Ensuring appropriate grazing levels to prevent erosion and compaction.

Ensure good management of soils across the area as this can be important for the protection of the historic environment.

Principal services offered by opportunities

  • Regulating soil erosion
  • Biodiversity
  • Sense of place/inspiration
  • Regulating soil quality
  • Regulating water quality

Pollination

Assets/attributes: main contributors to service –

  • Grassland, meadows, heathland, hedgerows
  • Orchards
  • Active bee keepers clubs
  • Roadside verges

State – The extensive semi-natural habitat mosaic of grasslands, heathland and scrub, on the hill ridge and in unimproved grasslands across the area, provide nectar sources for pollinating insects.

Main beneficiary – Local

Analysis – There is real scope to improve the availability of nectar sources in this NCA through the good management and extension of hedgerows and orchards. This would have positive benefits for biodiversity, crop provision and enhance the landscape character.

Opportunities – Work with land managers and communities to identify the most appropriate places to extend the good management of hedgerows and orchards to ensure the best outcomes for biodiversity and food production as well as for pollinating insects. Improve habitat connectivity and allow meadows/ pastures to flower.

Principal services offered by opportunities

  • Biodiversity
  • Sense of place/inspiration
  • Pollination
  • Food provision

Pest regulation

No information available.

Cultural Services

Sense of place/inspiration

Assets/attributes: main contributors to service –

  • Malvern Hills Ridge
  • Geology
  • Parklands and ancient woodland
  • Traditional orchards
  • Links with poets, authors, composers
  • RADAR and science
  • Land Rover and Morgan cars
  • Malvern and Ledbury festivals

State – Countryside Quality Counts data suggests that the character of the resource has probably been maintained.

Main beneficiary – National

Analysis – Management to enforce sense of place is likely to increase sense of history. Conserving and enhancing the distinctive landscape features is also likely to benefit biodiversity by enhancing or expanding habitat. Managing the orchards is also likely to benefit food production and pollination and improve soil quality and soil erosion. Using the links to the poets, artists, authors and composers.

Opportunities – Work with landowners to manage and restore the network of traditional orchards/ parklands and woodlands to reinforce sense of place and enhance biodiversity.

Maintain excellent access to the main hill ridge and its adjoining commons.

Protect internationally and nationally important geological sites (SSSIs) and locally important geological sites (Local Geological Sites) within the NCA.

Identify, protecting, managing and interpreting the characteristic geodiversity of the NCA.

Conserve historic parklands as a recreational resource and to benefit biodiversity.

Work with local groups to use the Malvern Hills links to famous authors, artists and composers to inspire a current generation about the distinctive landscape.

Principal services offered by opportunities

  • Sense of place/inspiration
  • Sense of history
  • Biodiversity
  • Recreation
  • Tranquillity
  • Food production
  • Pollination
  • Regulating soil quality
  • Regulation soil erosion
  • Regulating water quality
  • Geodiversity

Sense of history

Assets/attributes: main contributors to service –

  • Iron-age hill forts along the ridge, notably Midsummer Hill and British Camp, as well as bronze-age round barrows and the standing stone at Colwall.
  • Churches and priories.
  • Several large estates with designed landscapes in the foothills, such as Eastnor Castle, and the spa towns and villas characterised by eclectic Victorian and Edwardian styles.
  • Historic tree scapes or woodlands, orchards, hedges and veteran boundary trees.

State – There has been pressure for development around the main towns and villages between the dispersed settlements at the foot of the hills and within the grounds of large Victorian villas. The hinterland of Malvern (wooded hills and Cradley Brook valley) has been particularly affected. (CQC 2003)

2 Registered Parks and Gardens covering 1,402 ha.

16 Scheduled Monuments.

372 Listed Buildings.

Main beneficiary – National

Analysis – This NCA needs to maintain its sense of history as the assets listed are a real draw for visitors. These provide recreational opportunities and sense of place by reinforcing the historic character of the landscape. Conserving the designed landscapes will also have positive benefits for biodiversity.

Opportunities – There is an opportunity to retaining a pattern of dispersed settlements and their diverse range of vernacular buildings and farmstead architecture through influencing local plans.

Conserve historic parklands as a recreational resource, a distinctive characteristic of the landscape and to benefit biodiversity and sense of history.

Conserve and enhance historic tree-scapes of woodlands, orchards, hedges and veteran boundary trees.

Protect and explain archaeological earthworks and sub-surface archaeology that can enrich our perception of the sense of place and history.

Manage visitor access to ensure landscape attributes are maintained.

Manage soils particularly in the farm environment as important for the protection of historic environment.

Principal services offered by opportunities

  • Sense of history
  • Sense of place/inspiration
  • Biodiversity
  • Regulating soil quality
  • Regulating soil erosion
  • Recreation

Tranquility

Assets/attributes: main contributors to service –

  • Malvern Ridge
  • The high hills and summits are open without settlement
  • Isolated cottages and scattered farmsteads
  • Dense ancient woodlands on lower slopes
  • Quiet country lanes and intimate landscapes with frequent woodland to the north and west of the hill ridge
  • Hedgerow network

State – Based on the CPRE map of tranquillity (2006) the highest scores for tranquillity are on the Malvern Hills ridge, within the AONB. The lowest scores for tranquillity are at the towns. The western parts of this NCA falls within areas considered to be relatively tranquil in comparison to much of England.

Main beneficiary – National

Analysis – There is a need to protect the open summits and retain the scattered settlement pattern as well as ensuring that new development does not impact on the tranquillity. This will also help to maintain biodiversity and quiet enjoyment of the area.

By managing and increasing the hedgerow networks across the area tranquillity will also be enhanced.

Opportunities – Maintain the existing upland character of the iconic Malvern Hills.

Ensure that new development contributes positively to the qualities of the Malvern Hills AONB.

Manage visitor access to ensure landscape attributes are maintained.

Principal services offered by opportunities

  • Tranquillity
  • Sense of place/inspiration
  • Recreation
  • Biodiversity

Recreation

Assets/attributes: main contributors to service –

  • The hill ridge, the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, public rights of way, extensive area of open access land.
  • Equestrian activities, hang gliding, kite flying, model gliding, sledging, cycling, abseiling and walking.

State – 10.7 percent of the NCA is publicly accessible.

279 km of public rights of way at a density of 3.36km per km2.

The hills support in excess of 1 million visits per year.

665 ha of open access land covering 8 percent of the NCA.

Just over 86 percent of the NCA lies within the Malvern Hills AONB.

Main beneficiary – National

Analysis – More housing development within the surrounding area and a growing awareness of the need to keep healthy will only increase recreational pressure on this NCA. The existing resource needs to be maintained, keeping the benefits for biodiversity, geodiversity and sense of place. There is a need to encourage visitors to make use of other assets rather than just using the ridge and to create new assets such as green space.

Opportunities – Maintain excellent access to the main hill ridge and its adjoining commons (some in neighbouring NCAs).

Enhancing access on public rights of way and through access agreements to areas outside the Malvern Hills ridge.

Supporting the creation of new assets such as green space.

Manage visitor access to ensure landscape attributes are maintained.

Interpreting the important geodiversity, biodiversity and historic environment assets across the NCA.

Providing improved access by public transport from nearby urban populations.

Principal services offered by opportunities

  • Recreation
  • Biodiversity
  • Geodiversity
  • Sense of place/inspiration

Biodiversity

Assets/attributes: main contributors to service –

  • Priority habitat
  • Unimproved acid and neutral grassland, heathland, scrub and bracken
  • Ancient broadleaved woodland, small- leaved lime and wild service trees
  • Parkland and wood pasture national deadwood resource for invertebrates
  • Traditional orchards

State – A total of 16 sites wholly or partly within the NCA. Total area designated 1,024.5 ha. No sites are declining, 51.6 percent of the sites are unfavourable recovering, 6.8 percent no change and 41.6 percent favourable.

There are 54 Local Sites in Malvern Hills NCA, covering 1,607 ha which is 19.4 percent of the NCA.

Main beneficiary – Regional

Analysis – Already a rich mosaic of habitats exist in this NCA, but the improvement in the condition, and expansion, of woodland, hedgerows and traditional orchards will assist in climate regulation through the storage of carbon.

Increases in habitat extent could also have a positive effect on increasing recreation, water quantity, water quality, pollinators and soil erosion.

Opportunities – Create an ecological network by connecting areas of semi natural habitat to the large area of habitat on the main hill ridge and its adjoining commons.

Restore and create new areas of traditional orchard and priority grasslands, including lowland meadows in close proximity to extant areas.

Restore to good condition ancient species rich hedgerows and create new hedgerows where appropriate, including the establishment and management of mature and veteran trees.

Expand the area over which the nationally rare high brown fritillary butterfly occurs by protecting and appropriately managing existing sites and restoring areas close by as suitable habitat.

Principal services offered by opportunities

  • Biodiversity
  • Sense of history
  • Sense of place/inspiration
  • Recreation
  • Pollination
  • Regulating soil erosion
  • Regulating soil quality
  • Regulating water quality

Geodiversity

Assets/attributes: main contributors to service –

  • Important outcrops of Precambrian rocks
  • Exposures in outcrops and quarries reveal a range of rock types and geological structures
  • The geomorphology of the hill ridge is of geological interest, contributing to understanding of mountain formation and erosion processes
  • Nationally distinctive geology and a complex and diverse range of soil types
  • Many designated geological sites

State – 48 Local Geological Sites (LGS) within NCA.

Very few LGS are managed appropriately or regularly monitored to assess change in their condition.

Little data is available on the extent of loss or damage to sites of geodiversity interest other than designated sites. Lost sites include part of Tank Quarry at the north end of the Malvern Hills (which has been used for landfill), and Brays Pit and Mathon Pit to the west of the hills.

Main beneficiary – National

Analysis – There is a need to have more active management at many of the LGS to ensure that this unique geodiversity is not lost. This will have benefits for biodiversity and sense of place.

Designated sites, in particular provide important, and accessible sections of geology allowing the interpretation, understanding and continued research into the geodiversity of the NCA.

Sites of geological interest are, in places, under pressure from high visitor use. Sensitive sites with unique features such as Gullet Top Quarry regularly experience significant visitor pressure.

Other sites within the AONB such as Whitman’s Hill Quarry can be used to draw visitors away from honeypot sites to explore other parts of the area. These sites can be promoted positively, and interpreted, for geological exploration.

Opportunities – Identify, protect, manage and interpret the characteristic geodiversity of the NCA within and outside designated areas.

Principal services offered by opportunities

  • Geodiversity
  • Biodiversity
  • Sense of place/inspiration
  • Recreation
  • Sense of history