National Character Area 12

Mid Northumberland - Key Facts & Data

Landscape and nature conservation designations section contains a map

Note that numbers and figures in the body of the text are based on the 2014 profiles, unless otherwise stated. The maps contain live frequently updated datasets.

There are no National Park or Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty designations within this NCA (Natural England 2011).

Designated nature conservation sites

The NCA includes the following statutory nature conservation designations (Natural England, Special Protection Areas; Special Area of Conservation; Ramsars; National Nature Reserves; Sites of Special Scientific Interest and Local Nature Reserves, 2021):

Please note: (i) Designated areas may overlap (ii) all figures are cut to Mean High Water Line, designations that span coastal/marine areas below this line will not be included.

Condition of designated sites
All designated sites within England are covered by Sites of Scientific Interest (SSSI) units. The condition to these SSSI units within the NCA are as follows (Natural England, Sites of Special Scientific Interest Units, 2021):



Landscape and nature conservation designations map for NCA12

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Landform, geology and soils section contains a map

Note that numbers and figures in the body of the text are based on the 2014 profiles, unless otherwise stated. The maps contain live frequently updated datasets.

Elevation

Elevation ranges from 19m above sea level to a maximum of 265m at Kirkheaton. The average elevation is 127m (Natural England, 2010).

Landform and process

Mid Northumberland forms an intermediate plateau of gentle undulations that falls gradually towards the south and east (Border Uplands Natural Area Profile, Mid-Northumberland Countryside Character Area description).

Bedrock geology

The area is underlain by sedimentary rocks of the Carboniferous age, mainly sandstone, shales and some, mostly thin, limestone, intruded by the Whin Sill, consisting of bands of dolerite. These rocks form the prominent sandstone crag of Rothly and Shaftoe, and the Whin Sill crags at Gunnerton. There are isolated outcrops of Great Limestone at Ryal. A breakdown of solid geology as a proportion of total land area is as follows: 56 per cent mudstone, sandstone and limestone; 21 per cent sandstone; 12 per cent limestone, sandstone, siltstone and mudstone; 7 per cent limestone; 4 per cent mudstone, siltstone and sandstone; <1 per cent quartz-microgabbro and <1 per cent microgabbro (Border Uplands Natural Area Profile, Mid-Northumberland Countryside Character Area Description, Natural England, 2010).

Superficial deposits

Glacial deposits form almost a complete mantle of boulder clay across the NCA. This gives rise to a relatively featureless gently undulating landform except in places where outcrops of the bedrock create rocky crags (Border Uplands Natural Area Profile, Mid Northumberland Countryside Character Area description).

Designated geological sites

The NCA includes the following geological sites (Natural England, Geological and Mixed Sites of Special Scientific Interest, 2021):

wdt_IDNCA_IDNAMENCAAreaHaInterest typeArea (ha) 2021Percent of NCA (2021)Count
2361NORTH NORTHUMBERLAND COASTAL PLAIN37,669.6Geological6.80.01
2371NORTH NORTHUMBERLAND COASTAL PLAIN37,669.6Mixed1,029.52.75
2382NORTHUMBERLAND SANDSTONE HILLS72,694.6Geological45.40.14
2393CHEVIOT FRINGE51,591.3Geological17.10.02
2404CHEVIOTS36,487.9Geological165.00.52
2414CHEVIOTS36,487.9Mixed3,488.99.61
2425BORDER MOORS AND FORESTS127,155.9Geological85.70.18
2435BORDER MOORS AND FORESTS127,155.9Mixed35.80.01
2446SOLWAY BASIN98,350.4Geological7.20.02
2456SOLWAY BASIN98,350.4Mixed5,569.25.74

Soils and Agriculture Classification

The majority of the area is classified as Grade 3 land, with relatively fertile soils due to the glacial deposits. This supports intensive arable and improved pasture in the south and east of the NCA. Poorer soils are found at higher altitudes, limiting agriculture to livestock rearing. These merge with fodder crops and arable crops on the lower, better quality land towards the east. 31 per cent of the area is Less Favoured Area (LFA) land (Natural England, 2010).

The main grades of agricultural land in the NCA are broken down as follows (as a proportion of total land area) (Natural England, Provisional Agricultural Land Classification, 2019):


Landform, geology and soils map for NCA12

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Key waterbodies and catchments section contains a map

Note that numbers and figures in the body of the text are based on the 2014 profiles, unless otherwise stated. The maps contain live frequently updated datasets.

Major rivers/canals

The following major rivers/canals (by length) have been identified in this NCA (Natural England, data informing the 2014 National Character Area Profiles, 2010):

wdt_IDREF_CODENAME_1NameLength (km)SumOfShape_Length
11NORTH NORTHUMBERLAND COASTAL PLAINRiver Aln7.67,587.2
21NORTH NORTHUMBERLAND COASTAL PLAINRiver Coquet5.55,516.0
31NORTH NORTHUMBERLAND COASTAL PLAINWhiteadder Water2.92,904.9
410NORTH PENNINESBlack Burn11.911,853.4
510NORTH PENNINESCroglin Water10.010,042.3
610NORTH PENNINESCrowdundle Beck4.34,337.4
710NORTH PENNINESDevil's Water20.520,464.6
810NORTH PENNINESHarwood Beck9.79,740.2
910NORTH PENNINESRiver Allen4.94,889.0
1010NORTH PENNINESRiver Derwent15.315,268.4

Please note: other significant rivers (by volume) may also occur. Tidal stretches of rivers are not included, which may include some major rivers.

The rivers generally flow from west to east towards the North Sea and include the Coquet, Wansbeck, Blyth and Pont. Land west of Kirkheaton drains westward through small burns into the North Tyne river. The NCA has a number of ponds and lakes at Bolam, Capheaton, Belsay and Hallington Reservoir. Areas of open water like these are relatively rare within Northumberland.

Water quality

Nitrate Vulnerable Zones (NVZs) are areas designated as being at risk from agricultural nitrate pollution. These can impact surface water (waterbodies and waterways located above ground) and groundwater (water bodies and waterways located below ground).

Waterbodies such as lakes can also be designated as “eutrophic waters” if the enrichment of the waterbody by nitrate pollution causes accelerated growth of algae, impacting the quality of the water and the balance of organisms within it.

The following NVZs are located within the NCA (Environment Agency, Nitrate Vulnerable Zones Designations, 2021):

Water framework directive

River basin management plans cover river basin districts and describe the challenges that threaten the water environment and how these challenges can be managed and funded. The plans include the classification of water quality of surface waters and ground waters.



Click on the Water Framework Directive layers on the below map to view the corresponding river names.

Key waterbodies and catchments map for NCA12

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Trees and woodlands section contains a map

Note that numbers and figures in the body of the text are based on the 2014 profiles, unless otherwise stated. The maps contain live frequently updated datasets.

Total woodland cover

Ancient woodland is any area that has been wooded continuously since at least 1600 AD. National Forest Inventory (NFI) woodland includes all forests and woodlands (0.5 hectares and over). The total woodland cover within the NCA is as follows (Natural England, Ancient Woodland, 2021; Forestry Commission, National Forest Inventory, 2020):

Distribution and size of woodland and trees in the landscape

There are scattered small farm woodlands throughout the area, together with some larger coniferous plantations on the ridges. The valleys of the rivers Font, Wansbeck and Coquet are well-wooded. In addition, there are mixed and ornamental woodlands and parklands within the country estates. Small coniferous blocks and belts of trees occur on the more open farmland to the south. Hedgerow trees are generally few, and are usually ash with some sycamore and oak (Border Uplands Natural Area Profile, Mid Northumberland Countryside Character Area description).

Woodland types

A statistical breakdown of the area and type of woodland found across the NCA is detailed below (Forestry Commission, National Forest Inventory, 2020):

Area and proportion of ancient woodland and planted ancient woodland sites (PAWS) within the NCA (Natural England, Ancient Woodland, 2021):


Trees and woodlands map for NCA12

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Boundary features and patterns

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

Boundary features

On the higher plateau to the west field boundaries are generally dry stone walls or fragmented hedgerows. The south of the NCA has a strong pattern of traditional stone walls and hedgerows. Hedgerow trees are a feature of this landscape especially in the east (Mid Northumberland Countryside Character Area description; Countryside Quality Counts, 2003).

Field patterns

These are predominantly regular rectangular field patterns characteristic of the 18th century enclosures. The large fields and strong boundary features give the NCA a distinctive regularity (Mid Northumberland Countryside Character Area description; Countryside Quality Counts, 2003).

Agriculture section contains a map

Note that numbers and figures in the body of the text are based on the 2014 profiles, unless otherwise stated. The maps contain live frequently updated datasets.

The following tables provide the most recently available statistics from Defra on agriculture within the NCA.

Farm type

The following farm types are located within this NCA (Defra, Structure of the agricultural industry in England and the UK at June, 2016):

Farm size

The following table outlines the sizes of farms within the NCA (Defra, Structure of the agricultural industry in England and the UK at June, 2021):

Farm ownership

The following table outlines the ownership of farms within the NCA (Defra, Structure of the agricultural industry in England and the UK at June, 2016):

Land use

The following table outlines the types of agricultural land use within the NCA (Defra, Structure of the agricultural industry in England and the UK at June, 2016):

Livestock numbers

The following livestock are farmed within the NCA (Defra, Structure of the agricultural industry in England and the UK at June, 2021):

Farm labour

The following table outlines the types of farm labour within the NCA (Defra, Structure of the agricultural industry in England and the UK at June, 2021):

Please note: (i) Some of the Census data are estimated by Defra so may not present a precise assessment of agriculture within this area (ii) Data refers to commercial holdings only (iii) Data includes land outside of the NCA where it belongs to holdings whose centre point is recorded as being within the NCA.



Note that the below map only shows agri-environment scheme coverage, and not other schemes.

Agriculture map for NCA12

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Key habitats and species section contains a map

Note that numbers and figures in the body of the text are based on the 2014 profiles, unless otherwise stated. The maps contain live frequently updated datasets.

Habitat distribution/coverage

Broadleaved woodland – Mainly mixed oak woodlands, ash and sycamoreare present in lower areas of the NCA, while much of the woodland is found along the river valleys and stream sides. In these areas, such as the Coquet and Wansbeck valleys, alder trees are common. The low proportion of tree cover across the NCA as a whole means that these areas are very important for supporting populations of a number of bird and bat species. Other semi- natural habitats are only found in small patches across the NCA. The most notable site is Longhorsley Moor which retains an important remnant of lowland heath, and is a mosaic of heather, bracken, acid grassland and gorse communities. Both upland and lowland calcareous grassland patches are found in the NCA along limestone outcrops in the landscape, notably at Ryal (Border Uplands Natural Area Profile).

Key Habitats

The NCA contains the following areas of key main habitats, as mapped by the national Priority Habitat Inventory (Natural England, Priority Habitats Inventory, 2021):






Key habitats and species map for NCA12

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Settlement and development patterns section contains a map

Note that numbers and figures in the body of the text are based on the 2014 profiles, unless otherwise stated. The maps contain live frequently updated datasets.

Settlement patterns

The ancient market town of Morpeth is the only major settlement in the NCA. Dispersed, nucleated settlements, many of medieval origin, are characteristic of the NCA. Some are found along ridgetops, for example, Ryal and Kirkheaton, and others at strategic bridging points within the river valleys such as at Netherwitton. Extensive ridge and furrow around many settlements indicates that villages were previously larger. This is particularly notable in the south of the NCA (Mid Northumberland Countryside Character Area description; Countryside Quality Counts, 2003).

Main settlements

The main settlement in Mid Northumberland NCA is Morpeth. The total estimated population for this NCA (derived from ONS 2001 census data) is: 25,858 (Mid Northumberland Countryside Character Area description; Countryside Quality Counts, 2003).

Local vernacular and building materials

Villages often centre on a village green and are surrounded by extensive ridge and furrow. Bastles or fortified houses were built in response to intermittent border raids from 14th to 16th centuries, and these remain distinctive landscape features at Mitford, Belsay, Shortflatt and Ray Demesne. Many of the fine country houses have incorporated these structures into their design. Fell Sandstone is the main source of building materials. In higher altitudes gritstone Now used for substantial buildings (Draft Historic Profile; Countryside Character Area description; Countryside Quality Counts, 2003).

Settlement and development patterns map for NCA12

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Key historic sites and features section contains a map

Note that numbers and figures in the body of the text are based on the 2014 profiles, unless otherwise stated. The maps contain live frequently updated datasets.

Origin of historic features

The ridge tops across the area carry prominent traces of early settlement – cairns, standing stones, tumuli and beacons of iron-age farmers remain as landscape features. Romano-British settlement Now extensive; Hadrian’s Wall forms the southern boundary of the NCA and Dere Street crosses the landscape marked today by the route of the A68. Much evidence of settlements has been reduced by ploughing to rectilinear cropmarks. As conflict in the area from border raids decreased and prosperity based on farming increased a number of fine country houses and semi-stately homes were built from the 17th to 19th century. These large country homes with their parklands are key features of the landscape, notably Belsay Castle and Kirkharle Estate (Countryside Quality Counts Draft Historic Profile, Countryside Character Area description).

Designated historic assets

The NCA includes the following designated historic assets (Historic England, National Heritage List for England, 2021):

Listed buildings

The NCA includes the following listed buildings (Historic England, National Heritage List for England, 2021):

Heritage at Risk Register

The NCA includes the following designated historic assets listed within the Heritage at Risk Register (Historic England, Heritage at Risk Register, 2023):



Key historic sites and features map for NCA12

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Recreation and access section contains a map

Note that numbers and figures in the body of the text are based on the 2014 profiles, unless otherwise stated. The maps contain live frequently updated datasets.

Public access

The following areas of public access for recreation are located within this NCA (Natural England, 2021; National Trust, 2021):


Please note: Public access areas may overlap.

The following linear routes or public access for recreation are located within this NCA (Natural England, 2021; Sustrans; 2021):

Recreation and access map for NCA12

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Experiential qualities

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

Tranquillity

Based on the CPRE map of tranquillity (2006) the lowest score for tranquillity is at Morpeth, with highest scores towards the northwest away from major roads.

A breakdown of tranquillity values for this NCA are detailed in the table below (CPRE, Tranquillity Map, 2006):

Dark skies

Light pollution is a generic term referring to artificial light that shines where it is neither wanted nor needed, and can impact on people’s experience of the countryside within the NCAs. CPRE host an interactive map, depicting the light pollution and dark skies within the NCA.

Intrusion

The 2007 Intrusion Map (CPRE) shows the extent to which rural landscapes are ‘intruded on’ from urban development, noise (primarily traffic noise), and other sources of visual and auditory intrusion. This shows Morpeth to be a focus of disturbed land, together with the A1 corridor and the route of high voltage transmission lines through the middle of the NCA. A breakdown of intrusion values for this NCA is detailed in the table below.

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

Notable trends from the 1960s to 2007 are a considerable increase in the area of intruded or disturbed land by 18 per cent.