National Character Area 84

Mid Norfolk - Analysis: Landscape Attributes & Opportunities

Analysis supporting Statements of Environmental Opportunity

The following analysis section focuses on the landscape attributes and opportunities for this NCA.

Further analysis on ecosytem services for this NCA is contained in the Analysis: Ecosytem Services section.

Landscape attributes


Gently undulating to flat terrain with variable glacial soils, dissected by wide river valleys.

Justification for selection:

  • Wide open views with wooded horizons and big skies.
  • Gravels, sands, reworked chalk and glacial till were deposited by the ice of Anglian glaciations.
  • Varied land cover is a reflection of mixed glacial soils, which determine natural vegetation patterns.
  • Sediment deposits provide an archive of information on the environmental and climatic history of the area.
  • Mineral extraction of glacial deposits mainly occurs to the south of Holt and towards Norwich.


Ancient countryside with a long- settled agricultural character.

Justification for selection:

  • A sporadically rationalised patchwork field system, sinuous lanes and mixed hedges with hedgerow oaks.
  • Predominately arable land use.
  • Land use patterns have remained relative unchanged from the 14th century until 20th-century rationalisation resulted in larger fields and the removal of hedgerows in some areas.
  • High levels of tranquillity are found away from main roads.
  • Hedgerows and set-aside in arable land provide important refuges for wildlife and link fragmented semi-natural habitats.


Relatively well-wooded landscape.

Justification for selection:

  • Relatively well-wooded landscape with a variety of woodland types with ancient woodland largely confined to small isolated pockets.
  • The loss of traditional coppice management has reduced structural diversity of woodlands.
  • Areas of ancient woodland have been supplemented with plantations of broadleaved and conifers.
  • Poplar plantations have altered the traditional landscape on river valley floors.


Important areas of remnant heathland.

Justification for selection:

  • Heathland was historically more extensive but important remnant habitat still remains.
  • Species-rich valley mire systems are associated with heathland areas.
  • Heathland is particularly associated with river valley corridors.


Important chalk rivers and tranquil river valleys.

Justification for selection:

  • The River Wensum SAC is one of the most important chalk rivers in Britain.
  • River valleys support an important mosaic of wetland, woodland and grassland habitats and species.
  • Tranquillity is generally high in river valleys.


Historic settlement pattern with traditional building vernacular and materials and numerous prominent churches.

Justification for selection:

  • A historic pattern of interspersed villages and isolated farmhouses within complex minor road network, with a traditional pattern of market towns including East Dereham and Fakenham.
  • A cohesive 17th- and 18th-century vernacular architecture has preserved into the 20th century.
  • Distinctive red brick and flint buildings with pantiled roofs are an inherent component of Norfolk character.
  • Unusually rich density of medieval churches which are prominent features of the flat landscape.


Large number of 18th-century estates with their associated parkland.

Justification for selection:

  • Medieval manors formed the basis of 17th- and 18th-century country house estates of various sizes.
  • Many estates have accompanying parkland and frequently have their own church and village, such as at Heydon.

Landscape opportunities

  • Protect the historic enclosed field pattern, with its characteristic winding lanes and boundary hedges, from agricultural rationalisation.
  • Manage and enhance existing arable farmland for wildlife by reinstating hedgerows, increasing areas of set aside and adopting wildlife-friendly land management practices.
  • Manage and enhance woodlands through replacing conifer and poplar plantations with native tree species, re-introducing traditional coppice management creating new woodlands and connecting fragmented habitats.
  • Manage and enhance heathland habitats, restoring remnant areas and connecting fragmented habitats.
  • Manage chalk rivers to improve biodiversity and geodiversity by restoring a naturally functioning system where possible, removing obstructions and barriers and reconnecting rivers to their flood plain.
  • Protect the historic settlement pattern by ensuring that new development maintains traditional character, building vernacular and materials.
  • Protect historic farmsteads, traditional farm buildings and the numerous prominent churches that form distinctive landmarks in the landscape.
  • Protect 18th-century estates and parkland from development and enhance their wildlife and recreational value.
  • Plan green infrastructure including areas of broadleaved woodland to screen new developments, improving biodiversity, recreational opportunities and making a positive contribution to climate change
  • Plan strategic and local networks of sustainable transport and public access linkages to improve recreational opportunities and mitigate for increased visitor pressure.