National Character Area 31

Morecambe Coast and Lune Estuary - 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.

This NCA includes part of one Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB); the Arnside and Silverdale AONB. 127 ha of the AONB are in the NCA (1 per cent of the NCA area) (Natural England, 2011).


Relationship with the coast

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

  • Great Ormes Head to Scotland

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

  • Morecambe Bay


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 NCA31

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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 in the NCA varies from sea level around the Morecambe Bay fringe to a high point of 110m on the hills forming the NCAs eastern boundary, and the transition to the Bowland Fringe and Morecambe Bay Limestones NCAs (Natural England, 2010).

Landform and process

The landform is generally low-lying with the higher points associated with sandstone bedrock. The lowlands are more recently derived with the landform generated by a combination of glacial deposition and coastal and fluvial processes. Over all the landform is very smooth with extensive low lying flats and gentle-sloped hills. Heysham Head is an outcrop of Millstone Grit, forming cliffs and a rocky foreshore. Drumlins characterise much of the area – drowned in places where they meet the coast (Natural England, 2010).

Bedrock geology

The bedrock geology of the NCA is entirely sedimentary in nature with 93 per cent being composed of sandstones, mudstones and siltstones from the Carboniferous, Permian and Triassic periods. The remaining 7 per cent is predominantly limestone. There are few outcrops, though the bedrock is exposed in some coastal areas such as the Millstone Grit sandstones Heysham Head (Natural England, 2010).

Superficial deposits

The drift geology in this NCA is derived of glacial, fluvial and coastal sediments and is dominated by clays, silts and gravels with drumlin fields in some areas Natural England, 2010).

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

On elevated ground the soils are dominated by free draining acid soils reflecting the NCAs extensive drift and sandstone based geologies. In lower lying areas the soils are more diverse as a consequence of fluvial and coastal influences, and in some areas higher water tables. The best areas of agricultural land (Grade 2) are found on the drained peatlands around Pilling and Glasson. Otherwise the NCA is dominated by grade 3 land with lower grades found on the upland, and coastal fringes of the NCA (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 NCA31

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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 three main rivers in the NCA all rise in uplands to the north and east and cross this NCA to discharge into Morecambe Bay. The Conder and Keer are both relatively short, rising in the adjacent Bowland Fringe and Morecambe Bay Limestones NCAs respectively. The Lune has a much wider catchment which extends to the Lake District High Fells, the Orton Fells, the Howgills, Yorkshire Dales and Bowland Fells NCAs. The NCA is also crossed by the Lancaster Canal which linked South Cumbria with Lancaster and industrial centres to the south and connects to the sea at Glasson Dock on the Lune Estuary.

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 NCA31

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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

Woodlands are largely absent from the low lying parts of the NCA with the greatest extents on the elevated areas between Galgate and Lancaster where they are associated with farmsteads or with the designed landscapes around country estates (Natural England, 2010).

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 NCA31

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Boundary features and patterns

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

Boundary features

Fields in this NCA are generally bordered by hedgerows in the elevated areas and by ditches, sometimes with associated hedgerows, in the low-lying areas. The total length of boundary features in the NCA is about 663km. Of this about 5 per cent Now under agri-environment agreement management in 2003. This had increased to about 23 per cent in 2011 (Morecambe Coast and Lune Estuary Countryside Character Area description, Countryside Quality Counts, 2003).

Field patterns

On flood plains and reclaimed salt marshes fields tend to be rectilinear reflecting their origin in campaigns of organised reclamation. In higher areas the fields tend to be less regular in shape reflecting a longer period of development in association with other features of the landscape (Morecambe Coast and Lune Estuary 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 NCA31

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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

The greatest extents of priority habitat are found in the low-lying areas particularly around the Lune Estuary and westwards along the Morecambe Bay estuary fringe to Pilling and include large extents of coastal and floo plain grazing marsh and salt marsh. These areas are particularly important for wintering wildfowl and wader populations, and also support significan breeding wader populations and the rare belted beauty moth and natterjack toad. Away from the coastal fringe, priority habitats are more scattered in the intensively managed agricultural or urban landscape, but remnants include a range of habitat types and this part of the NCA is important for some priority species such as purple ramping-fumitory, which occurs on arable land and disturbed urban margins (Lancashire Plain and Valleys 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 NCA31

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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

South of the Lune the settlement pattern is essentially a rural one with settlements having developed around farmsteads and local industry centres such as those associated with the Lancaster canal. This is very different from the City of Lancaster and settlement to the north and west, where there is a much more significant urban element to the settlement pattern with significant developments and associated settlement at Heysham and along the coast north from Morecambe to Carnforth (Morecambe Coast and Lune Estuary Countryside Character Area description, Countryside Quality Counts, 2003).

Main settlements

The main settlements are: Lancaster, Morecambe, Heysham and Carnforth. The total estimated population for this NCA (derived from ONS 2001 census data) is: 125,930 (Morecambe Coast and Lune Estuary Countryside Character Area description; Countryside Quality Counts, 2003).

Local vernacular and building materials

Most traditional buildings are constructed of red brick though in Lancaster there is a significant use of local, natural Millstone Grit sandstone (Morecambe Coast and Lune Estuary Countryside Character Area description, Countryside Quality Counts, 2003).

Settlement and development patterns map for NCA31

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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

Early historic features mainly relate to the early-Christian, pre-Norman Conquest period including a high density of pre-Conquest churches and religious artefacts such as Norse hog-back tombs, Anglian preaching or sepulchral crosses and numerous chapels. The chapel of St. Patrick on the cliffs at Heysham is reputed to have been built by the Angles before AD 800 following the legend that St. Patrick Now shipwrecked off the coast of Morecambe. More recent features are generally associated with the development of Lancaster as the former administrative centre for Lancashire and its associated civic amenities such as Williamson Park and Lancaster Cemetery, both registered parklands (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 NCA31

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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 NCA31

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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 areas of highest tranquillity occur around the Lower Lune estuary, while the most disturbed areas are associated with the essentially urban northern parts of the NCA.

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 that the Urban and industrial areas, and their associated infrastructure, in the north of the NCA intrude into the rural landscape; this is less significant in the more southerly parts of the NCA.

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 an apparent 19 per cent increase in disturbed areas since the 1960s linked to 10 per cent falls in both undisturbed and ‘no data’ areas.