National Character Area 1

North Northumberland Coastal Plain - 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 North Northumberland Coastal Plain 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 – 

  • Underlying geology
  • Fertile soils
  • Semi-natural habitats
  • Available water
  • Shellfish and fish stocks

State – There is a long tradition of mixed farming in this NCA due to the high quality soils, the maritime climate and gentle slopes. The area is important for cereal production, particularly winter-sown wheat, barley and oilseed rape. In 2009, 45 per cent of the NCA was used for growing cereals. The majority of soils (80 per cent) are Grade 3 and therefore of moderate productivity, while 10 per cent is Grade 2.

There is also a long tradition of grazing livestock, particularly fattening stock for market. In 2009, 40 per cent of the area was rough grazing or uncropped, supporting 13,219 cattle, 68,726 sheep and 8,900 pigs.

Although it has diminished substantially, fishing continues to be an important commercial activity in the area. The main target species are lobster and crab but seasonal fisheries for fish and other shellfish also occur. Craster is famous for its oak-smoked kippers.

Main beneficiary – Regional

Analysis – Integrating productive arable farming with the conservation of wildlife and valued landscape features can be challenging. Overly intensive production and inappropriate stocking rates can result in soil erosion, diffuse pollution, reductions in soil quality and carbon storage, loss and fragmentation of sensitive habitats such as Whinstone grassland, dune systems and deciduous woodland, and loss of traditional field patterns and hedgerows.

The future may bring further intensification of agricultural practices as demand for food provision increases and climatic conditions become more favourable for some arable production such as wheat for animal feed.

Many of the target and non-target fish and shellfish species are assessed as having declined and in many cases being at the low end or below recommended sustainable levels (Northumberland IFCA Strategic Environmental Assessment Scoping Report, Mott MacDonald for Northumberland Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority, 2013).

Opportunities – Seek to manage food production sustainably, working with the farming community to ensure good soil and nutrient management to maintain and improve soil and water quality and protect the historic environment.

Promote the marketing of local food which can play an important role in supporting tourism in the area, and in the process help encourage a locally sustainable green economy.

Encourage sensitive design and siting of new farm buildings to help maintain or restore traditional character.

Ensure that agri-environment schemes are used to best effect to preserve and enhance wildlife-rich habitats.

Promote nectar and seed-rich margins and field corners, restoring or reinstating hedgerows wherever possible to benefit pollinators and pest regulators.

Ensure sustainable fishing practices are adopted to maintain and restore marine ecosystems.

Principal services offered by opportunities

  • Food provision
  • Regulating water quality
  • Water availability
  • Regulating soil quality
  • Regulating soil erosion
  • Sense of place/inspiration

Timber provision

Assets/attributes: main contributors to service –

  • Soils
  • Woodland

State – Woodland cover is sparse in this NCA (5 per cent) and there is very little commercial forestry. Of the 1,851 ha of woodland only 590 ha are mature conifer plantations.

Main beneficiary – Local

Analysis – The open nature of this landscape, the high proportion of productive arable land, lack of timber production infrastructure and lack of local demand mean there are very limited opportunities to increase timber production.

Small-scale planting for timber products, if appropriately sited has the potential to provide environmental benefits such as expanding and linking woodland fragments, stabilising soils and reducing overland flows, while providing social and economic benefits.

Bringing existing deciduous woodland under management could create a local supply of timber and wood fuel.

Woodland management in the area buffering the Kyloe red squirrel reserve must take account of this species.

Opportunities – Manage and enhance existing woodlands to provide a local source of timber and wood fuel where appropriate.

Encourage small-scale tree planting in appropriate locations such as along water courses to provide a source of timber, stabilise soils, aid infiltration, and improve connectivity within the woodland network.

Opportunities should be sought to enhance the wooded character of river valleys, particularly the Aln and Coquet valleys and of the area around Howick, and more generally to plant trees along water courses to stabilise banks and improve infiltration.

Principal services offered by opportunities

  • Timber provision
  • Biomass provision
  • Climate regulation
  • Regulating water flow
  • Sense of place/inspiration
  • Biodiversity

Water availability

Assets/attributes: main contributors to service – 

  • Precipitation
  • Watercourses including the Tweed, Aln and Coquet
  • Aquifer

State – The area around Berwick overlies the northern tip of the Fell Sandstone aquifer which is the primary source of groundwater in the area, providing public water supply to northern Northumberland. This has been assessed as ‘no water available’ (Till Abstraction Licensing Strategy, Environment Agency, 2013).

The rivers Aln and Coquet have water available (Northumberland Rivers Abstraction Licensing Strategy, Environment Agency, 2013). Most abstraction is for public water supply.

The River Tweed has no regulatory body to control surface water abstraction or impoundment but currently Natural England consents abstractions due to its designation as a SSSI and SAC. The Lower Tweed and Whiteadder Water are likely to move to a status of ‘water available’.

Main beneficiary – Regional

Analysis – Climate change is likely to result in more intense precipitation events with warmer, drier summers in the long term, and future demand for water both for crop irrigation and public water supply is likely to increase. There are concerns that there may be insufficient groundwater available to meet future demand.

High levels of unsustainable abstraction create low flow levels that negatively impact on biodiversity and water quality so the amount of water licensed for abstraction may need to be reduced.

It is imperative that water is used sustainably and land management practices are employed which will increase water infiltration to facilitate groundwater recharge of the aquifer and help slow the run-off into rivers and out into the North Sea, thereby moderating peaks and troughs in water availability. There may also be a move towards installing more storage reservoirs on farms.

Land management practices upstream of this NCA are probably more critical in addressing the availability of water.

Opportunities – Seek opportunities to restore and extend semi-natural habitats such as flood plain grassland and woodland to improve water storage capacity and infiltration and slow run-off while improving habitat networks and ecosystem resilience to climate change.

Improve sustainable use of water and sympathetic land management practices such as storage reservoirs constructed to form positive features within the local landscape and increase biodiversity interest, and water conservation measures in new development.

Encourage best practice in soil management to increase infiltration rates and water holding capacity and slow run off. This may involve techniques such as minimum tillage, controlling farm traffic, limiting poaching and compaction by stock, use of green manures to increase organic matter, planting cover crops, and establishing in-field grass strips and beetle banks to protect soil structure and reduce rates of run-off.

Principal services offered by opportunities

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

Genetic diversity

Assets/attributes: main contributors to service –

  • Native livestock breeds

State – Native breeds of cattle are kept on a number of farms.

Main beneficiary – Local

Analysis – Native livestock breeds which are better suited to wetter ground and poorer grazing could play and important role in the restoration of wetland areas and grazing of Whin and dune grasslands.

Opportunities – Encourage grazing by native livestock breeds to facilitate restoration of wetlands and dune and Whin grasslands.

Encourage the promotion and development of supply chains and markets for high-quality local produce from traditional breeds, encouraging a green economy that supports local tourism, and capitalising on the environmental value of local breeds and their heritage/genetic value.

Principal services offered by opportunities

  • Genetic diversity
  • Food provision
  • Sense of place/inspiration
  • Biodiversity

Biomass energy

Assets/attributes: main contributors to service –

  • Soils
  • Woodland
  • Biomass crops

State – The existing woodland cover (5 per cent) offers limited potential for the provision of biomass, either through bringing unmanaged woodland under management or as a by-product of commercial timber production.

The NCA has medium potential yield for short rotation coppice (SRC) across most of its area with areas of high potential yield on the mainland adjacent to Holy Island and Budle Bay and to the south-west of Berwick-upon-Tweed.

Potential miscanthus yield is medium. A small number of farms are growing miscanthus.

For information on the potential landscape impacts of biomass plantings within the NCA, refer to the tables on the Natural England website.

There are four biomass boilers and two wood fuel suppliers in the area.

Main beneficiary – Local

Analysis – Potential yields of both SRC and miscanthus are already reasonable across much of the area and climate change may result in improved conditions for the growth of biomass crops. However, siting of these crops should consider the impacts on landscape character, historic environment, water courses and soil erosion.

Bringing existing deciduous woodland under management could create a local supply of timber and wood fuel. Such management should incorporate nature conservation objectives and ensure that woodlands retain standing and fallen dead wood, as well as a diverse age structure.

Opportunities – Work with the farming community to identify suitable opportunities to increase the net yield of biomass crops, seeking to locate these where they may be accommodated within local landscape character and realise multiple objectives for the environment.

Bring existing woodland under management and seek opportunities for small-scale planting of deciduous species to generate a local supply of wood fuel.

Principal services offered by opportunities

  • Biomass energy
  • Timber provision
  • Biodiversity

Regulating Services

Climate regulation

Assets/attributes: main contributors to service – 

  • Soils under semi-natural habitat

State – Soil carbon levels are generally low (0-5 per cent) but are likely to be higher under the NCA’s areas of unimproved grassland habitats, reedbeds, grazing marsh, sand dunes, salt marsh and eel grass beds (Carbon storage by habitat: Review of the evidence of impacts of management decisions and condition of carbon stores and sources, Natural England Research Report NERR043, Natural England, 2012).

Soils under the 1,851 ha (5 per cent of NCA area) of woodland within the NCA will also be relatively high in carbon and the woodland itself will provide carbon storage.

Main beneficiary – Regional

Analysis – The amount of carbon stored in agricultural soils could be increased by improving soil organic matter content through measures such as incorporation of manure/straw/other organic matter, use of green manures and minimum tillage.

Cultivation of permanent pasture can cause release of large quantities of carbon, so protection of permanent pastures will retain these carbon stores.

Areas of saltmarsh, eel grass beds and sand dunes, although small, are important carbon stores and are threatened by coastal squeeze. The carbon sequestration potential of salt marshes and sand dunes could be increased by removing artificial landward barriers, allowing these dynamic habitats to extend inland, and by reducing the nutrient load that marshes receive from rivers and sea water, which can limit below ground carbon storage. Saltmarsh creation from agricultural land should therefore increase carbon storage substantially.

Increasing the area of woodland would also help to sequester and store more carbon.

Opportunities – Encourage good soil and nutrient practice to increase soil organic content and minimise diffuse pollution to watercourses and the sea.

Encourage the retention of permanent pasture.

Enable movement and development of dynamic coastal habitats such as dunes and negotiate managed realignment to create saltmarsh.

Seek opportunities to expand and create woodland in locations that will help with adaptation to climate change while increasing carbon sequestration and storage.

Principal services offered by opportunities

  • Climate regulation
  • Regulating water quality
  • Regulating soil quality
  • Biodiversity

Regulating coastal erosion and flooding

Assets/attributes: main contributors to service –

  • Geology
  • Coastal processes
  • Semi-natural habitats including dunes, salt marsh and sand and mud flats

State – The coastline comprises high rocky cliffs in the north, extensive intertidal sand and mud flats, saltmarsh and sand dunes around Holy Island, a series of rocky headlands, sandy coves and wave-cut platforms south of this between Bamburgh and Seaton Point, and further south sandy beaches backed by sand dunes extend along Alnmouth Bay to the Coquet estuary.

The hard rock exposures and headlands are resilient with the best estimates of erosion being less than 0.1m/yr. These resistant areas and the reduced rate of erosion due to wave-cut platforms has allowed the bays to reach a high degree of stability.

However, localised sections of the coast are vulnerable to erosion: the more vulnerable areas include Spittal to the south of Tweedmouth which relies on a breakwater to inhibit erosion, and Beadnell which is dependent on the harbour for protection. Sea defences were erected following flooding events of 1953 but these may not be sustainable in the future.

The predominant wave direction is from the north-east along this coastline causing a net movement of material from north to south.

Holy Island provides a significant barrier to the movement of sediment southwards causing accumulation of sands and finer material in the lee of the island. The transport of sediment is relatively low, mostly occurring within bays.

Over recent times sea level has been static or even slightly decreasing along this stretch of coast (due to isostatic rebound following the last de-glaciation) but sea level rise is predicted in the future.

Main beneficiary – Regional

Analysis – The preferred policies to manage coastal erosion and sea level rise along the coast of this NCA, as set out in the Shoreline Management Plan (SMP) (Northumberland and North Tyneside Shoreline Management Plan 2, Final Report 2009, Northumbrian Coastal Group), are mainly ‘no active intervention’ or ‘managed realignment’ in order to maintain or enhance the naturalness of the coast. A ‘hold the line’ policy will be followed where specific assets are to be protected such as Berwick-upon-Tweed, Beadnell Village and Harbour and Alnmouth.

Within the lower sections of the River Tweed and in the lower reaches of the Coquet and Aln there are some areas which are at risk from tidal flooding.

Natural development of coastal habitats such as sand dunes, salt marsh and mudflats is currently affected by artificial barriers and management practices: deflection of waves by hard defences can increase erosion and change sedimentation patterns, and natural roll back is prevented by infrastructure and arable farming.

Designated features such as sand dunes and intertidal habitats will be subject to coastal squeeze when sea level rises. There will also be natural loss due to natural hard points (such as the Bamburgh dune system being squeezed against higher ground).

Managed realignment of defences to low-lying agricultural land will help to redress the impact of sea level rise on designated habitat.

Large areas of saltmarsh have recently been created through managed realignment in the Aln estuary for biodiversity gain and to reduce flood risk in Alnmouth.

The preferred policies in the SMP will result in net loss of rocky shore including intertidal reef and rock; in some places the foreshore will be ‘squeezed’ against static defences by sea level rise but the main issue along this stretch of coast is that more foreshore will be lost to sea level rise than will be gained by cliff recession due to the resistance and profile of the upper foreshore. While it is anticipated that this will not impact significantly on the functionality of the designated sites, all losses must be mitigated or compensated for and it is therefore crucial that the appropriate authorities take this forward on a wider scale than that offered within the SMP.

Allowing coastal processes to operate unimpeded and enabling habitats to respond naturally to change can reduce the risk of flooding by absorbing wave energy and providing flood water storage.

Opportunities – Protect and enhance the naturalness of the coast and seek opportunities to enable natural development of coastal systems.

Continue to encourage dune roll back to the east of Scremerston through agri- environment schemes.

Explore opportunities for managed realignment of the area to the north of Holy Island to facilitate natural development of the coastal system.

Explore the possibility of flooding the hinterland behind Beadnell Bay to create a more resilient shoreline and enhance ecological value, as recommended in the SMP.

Explore the possibility of managed realignment in the Coquet estuary.

Explore opportunities to compensate for the loss of rocky shore as determined by the SMP.

Principal services offered by opportunities

  • Regulating coastal erosion and flooding
  • Climate regulation
  • Regulating water quality
  • Regulating soil erosion
  • Sense of place/ Inspiration
  • Sense of history
  • Tranquillity
  • Recreation
  • Biodiversity
  • Geodiversity

Regulating water quality

Assets/attributes: main contributors to service – 

  • Geology
  • Precipitation
  • Soils
  • Semi-natural habitats
  • Farming practices

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 – National

Analysis – Diffuse pollution from agricultural land resulting in sedimentation, nutrient enrichment and contamination from pesticides such as metaldehyde is one of the main issues affecting water quality in this NCA.

Pollution from point sources such as septic tanks on converted steadings are an issue particularly around Berwick contributing to raised nitrate levels in groundwater, and on the coastal streams draining into Budle Bay, and these are currently being addressed.

There is also some localised contamination from old mine workings at Shilbottle.

The quality of coastal waters is generally good and upgrading of the coastal sewage treatment network has significantly improved water quality but run-off from agricultural land and point source pollution are causing elevated nutrient levels which are thought to be responsible for algal growth (Ulva intestinalis) on mudflats around Holy Island. This is creating anoxic conditions and smothering eelgrass beds.

The major rivers and coastal environment are of national and international importance for the flora and fauna they support and water quality is critical to their survival.

Improving water quality will also benefit recreation as Spittal Beach is currently failing to achieve bathing water status.

Oil pollution remains a real and constant threat to marine life, coastal habitats and sea birds along the whole of the Northumberland coast.

More extreme rainfall events as a result of climate change are likely to increase the risk of sediment and nutrient run-off, which could cause increased hydraulic scour and eutrophication effects. Warmer summers may raise water temperatures causing greater incidences of algal blooms and concentration of pollutants, thus affecting fish populations and other freshwater and marine organisms.

Good farming practices to help reduce pollution in the NCA will therefore become even more important.

Tree planting along watercourses and in the wider catchment could help to reduce diffuse pollution and sedimentation, and areas of the farmed coastal plain, particularly inland of Holy Island, have been identified as priority areas that would benefit from woodland planting for this purpose (Woodland for Water Opportunity Mapping, Forest Research, 2012).

Invasive species such as Himalayan balsam, giant hogweed, Japanese knotweed and signal crayfish are problematic in the lower stretches of the Aln, Tweed and Coquet catchments.

Continuing to monitor and control these species is critical to ensuring the continued good ecological status of these watercourses.

Opportunities – Continue to work with the farming community to promote best practice in soils, nutrient and pesticide management to reduce diffuse pollution from agriculture. This will include encouraging farmers to more accurately match nutrient inputs to needs, improve facilities for the storage of slurry and manure (sufficient to cope with more extreme weather conditions), manage stock movements and riparian grazing to avoid poaching and erosion of the banks of watercourses, and manage the timing of operations to protect soil condition.

Encouraging especially careful soil and nutrient management where soils overlying the Fell Sandstone aquifer are particularly thin and vulnerable.

The use of reedbeds and settlement ponds, in-field margins, headlands, under-sowing, changes in crop type and winter cover crops on farms would help reduce run-off and sedimentation.

Manage and extend areas of permanent grassland, scrub and woodland along watercourses.

Work with property owners to reduce point source pollution from septic tanks.

Seek opportunities to reduce pollution from mine water discharges, and work with water companies to reduce the level of pollutants discharged into watercourses and the sea from water treatment works.

Ensure that new developments include sustainable urban drainage systems and water efficiency features.

Ensure that the economic and environmental importance of the coast and offshore fisheries are taken into account in the oil pollution emergency planning process.

Continue to monitor and control the spread of invasive species in the watercourses and coastal environment.

Principal services offered by opportunities

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

Regulating water flow

Assets/attributes: main contributors to service – 

  • Geology
  • Soils
  • Semi-natural habitats

State – The main rivers within the NCA are the Tweed and its tributary Whiteadder Water, the Aln and the Coquet.

River flooding is not a significant issue in the Tweed catchment within the NCA (Till and Breamish Catchment Flood Management Plan Summary Report, Environment Agency, 2009).

Flooding on the Aln has been reported since 1770 but damage has been limited to bridges and agricultural land. The urban centre of Alnmouth is at risk of tidal flooding (North East Northumberland Catchment Flood Management Plan Summary Report, Environment Agency, 2009).

The physical characteristics of the Coquet catchment mean that it responds quickly to rainfall leading to a rapid onset of flooding. While flooding of settlements is not an issue in this NCA, properties are at risk in Rothbury (upstream of this NCA) and in Warkworth at the mouth of the Coquet, just south of this NCA.

Floods have also been a problem in Belford which lies on a coastal stream draining to Budle Bay but generally flood risk from the coastal streams is to agricultural land only (ibid).

Main beneficiary – Local

Analysis – Measures within upstream NCAs such as investigating the opportunity for floodwater storage in gravel pits and the benefit of afforestation in upland parts of the catchment will have the greatest impact on water flow as only short stretches of the lowest reaches of the rivers cross this area.

The Environment Agency’s preferred approach to managing flood risk on the lower stretches of these rivers includes avoidance of inappropriate development in the floodplain of the Coquet and promotion of sustainable land management practices that reduce the amount and rate of run-off and erosion.

Within this NCA improving the infiltration speed of water, particularly through arable soils could help to reduce rates of rainwater run-off and moderate peak and low flows.

The Coquet in particular is a very dynamic river which still has a natural and dynamic morphology. This is critical to its biodiversity and geomorphological interest and key to the landscape character of the area.

The risk of major flood events is likely to increase with climate change and there is a major opportunity to significantly enhance the regulation of water flow by restoring and creating multi-functional wetlands within the main river corridors and encourage the river systems to operate naturally.

Opportunities – Encourage good management of agricultural soils to improve water infiltration rates, slow run-off and increase water-holding capacity.

Seek opportunities to improve flood storage along river corridors, through restoring and expanding wetland habitats such as wet pastures, reedbeds and ponds.

Encourage tree planting and hedgerow restoration to help slow run-off into rivers.

Seek opportunities to restore natural fluvial processes along rivers and coastal streams which will also facilitate fish passage.

Principal services offered by opportunities

  • Regulating water flow
  • Water availability
  • Regulating water quality
  • Regulating soil quality
  • Regulating soil erosion
  • Sense of place/inspiration
  • Recreation
  • Biodiversity

Regulating soil quality

Assets/attributes: main contributors to service –

  • Geology
  • Soil types
  • Semi-natural habitats
  • Land management

State – There are six main soilscape types in this NCA:

  • Slightly acid loamy and clayey soils with impeded drainage (covering 32 per cent of the NCA).
  • Slowly permeable, seasonally wet, acid loamy and clayey soils (31 per cent).
  • Slowly permeable, seasonally wet, slightly acid but base-rich loamy and clayey soils (19 per cent).
  • Freely draining, slightly acid loamy soils (8 per cent).
  • Loamy and clayey floodplain soils with naturally high groundwater (4 per cent).
  • Sand dune soils (3 per cent).

Main beneficiary – Local

Analysis – The slightly acid, loamy and clayey soils with impeded drainage have a weak topsoil structure that can easily be poached by livestock and compacted by machinery when wet. Careful timing of activities is required to reduce this likelihood.

Similarly, the slowly permeable seasonally wet soils may suffer compaction and/or capping as they are easily damaged when wet. This may lead to increasingly poor water infiltration and diffuse pollution as a result of surface water run-off. Management measures that increase organic matter levels can help reduce these problems.

Improving soil structure and organic content will not only increase agricultural productivity but also carbon and water storage capability, and improve rates of rainwater infiltration, helping to reduce surface run-off.

Opportunities – Encourage careful timing of mechanised activities and stock movement to avoid compaction of wet soils.

Promote informed infield nutrient application and the use of green manure crops and winter stubbles in arable rotations to replace nutrients and bind soil.

Ensure the management of pastures and meadows encourages the build- up of organic matter, for example through extensive grazing regimes which will also reduce the risk of poaching.

Principal services offered by opportunities

  • Regulating soil quality
  • Food provision
  • Climate regulation
  • Regulating water quality
  • Regulating water flow
  • Regulating soil erosion
  • Biodiversity

Regulating soil erosion

Assets/attributes: main contributors to service –

  • Geology
  • Soils with impeded drainage
  • Semi-natural vegetation
  • Land management practices

State – The soils over approximately half of this NCA (54 per cent) are at low risk of erosion.

In contrast, the slightly acid loamy and clayey soils with impeded drainage (32 per cent of the NCA) are easily compacted by machinery or livestock when wet and are prone to capping or slaking, increasing the risks of soil erosion by surface water run-off, especially on steeper slopes.

The freely draining slightly acid loamy soils (8 per cent) are easily eroded on steeper slopes where cultivated or bare soil is exposed, especially if organic matter levels are low after continuous arable cultivation or where soils are compacted.

Coarse textured, cultivated variants are also prone to wind erosion in common with the sand dune soils that cover 3 per cent of the NCA. The risk of wind erosion to the latter is increased by disturbance along paths and tracks but decreased where vegetation has stabilised the dune system or when the land surface approaches ground water level.

Main beneficiary – Local

Analysis – Soil erosion causing sedimentation of water courses is already recognised as an issue in this NCA (Catchment 25: Tweed, Aln, Coquet and Coastal Streams, Capital Grant Scheme – Funding Priority Statement 2013/14, Natural England) and is likely to be exacerbated in the future by more frequent and more intense storm events and warmer, drier summers.

Encouraging land management practices that will reduce the risks of soil erosion is therefore essential.

The majority of the NCA falls within the Tweed, Aln, Coquet and Coastal Streams Priority Catchment designated under Defra’s Catchment Sensitive Farming initiative which supports management measures to reduce sediment, nutrient and pesticide run-off.

Opportunities – Encourage good soil management including careful timing of activities, use of machinery and stock management to avoid damaging wet soils.

Encourage the use of cover crops, under-sowing, green manures and in-field grass strips to improve organic content of soils, reduce exposure of bare soils and reduce rates of run-off.

Establish permanent grass buffers alongside watercourses.

Encourage less intensive management of pastures and meadows to facilitate the build-up of organic matter, for example through extensive grazing regimes which will also reduce the risk of poaching.

Encourage more permanent pasture on those soils most prone to erosion.

Encourage the restoration and reinstatement of hedgerows and the characteristic grey sandstone walls to reduce wind erosion as well as improving the valuable network of wildlife corridors and reinforcing landscape character.

Manage the rights of way network to reduce the impact of footpaths and recreation on vulnerable sand dune soils and encourage the development of dune vegetation where appropriate.

Principal services offered by opportunities

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

Pollination

Assets/attributes: main contributors to service –

  • Semi-natural habitats

State – Pollination by insects is critical to yields of certain crops such as oilseeds (7 per cent of land cover in this NCA) as well as many wild plant species and domestically grown fruit.

Within this NCA the main habitats for pollinating insects are the small areas of semi-natural grasslands and heath along the coastal fringe and on Whin Sill outcrops, but this resource is fragmented and dispersed.

Main beneficiary – Local

Analysis – Ensuring the presence of nectar and pollen sources throughout the flying season and the habitat structure required for all stages of their life cycles at a landscape scale, should help to increase pollinators which will benefit crops such as oilseed rape and field beans.

Improving the permeability of the landscape by increasing the prevalence and connectivity of suitable habitat and nectar sources, particularly within the arable farmland, and creating links with areas of more extensive semi-natural habitat in adjacent NCAs such as the Northumberland Sandstone Hills, will improve provision of this service.

Changes in temperature, humidity and soil moisture as a result of climate change may decouple the phenologies of pollinators from their host plants, change exposure to pollinator pathogens and increase exposure to pesticides if summer rainfall declines. These potential impacts highlight the need for greater connectivity of habitats to allow species to shift and adapt.

Opportunities – Encourage the restoration and creation of nectar-rich habitats such as herb-rich grasslands and heathlands.

Protect and restore hedgerows and encourage less frequent cutting to allow greater flowering.

Seek opportunities to provide a network of nectar-rich habitats in the farmed landscape, with particular emphasis on arable areas, through pollen and nectar mix areas, flower-rich margins and road verges.

Principal services offered by opportunities

  • Pollination
  • Food provision
  • Regulating water quality
  • Regulating soil erosion
  • Regulating water flow
  • Pest regulation
  • Biodiversity

Pest regulation

Assets/attributes: main contributors to service –

  • Semi-natural habitats

State – The main habitats for pest-regulating species are the small and fragmented areas of semi-natural habitats along the coastal fringe.

Main beneficiary – Local

Analysis – Increasing the diversity, complexity and extent of habitats should improve the provision of appropriate habitats and resources for predator and parasitoid species (NECR102 – Ecosystem Services from Environmental Stewardship that benefit agricultural production, Natural England, 2012).

Opportunities – Seek opportunities to enhance the networks of species-rich grasslands, heathlands, woodland, wetlands, hedgerows and field margins to encourage movement of natural predators and link arable areas with areas of more extensive semi-natural habitats in adjacent NCAs.

Principal services offered by opportunities

  • Pest regulation
  • Food provision
  • Regulating water quality
  • Regulating soil erosion
  • Regulating water flow
  • Pollination
  • Biodiversity

Cultural Services

Sense of place/inspiration

Assets/attributes: main contributors to service –

  • Distinctive geology including the Whin Sill
  • Varied coast
  • Offshore islands
  • Open coastal plain
  • Characteristic habitats
  • Rivers and streams
  • Castles
  • Historic fishing villages
  • Open views

State – A sense of place is provided by the narrow, low-lying, windswept coastal plain cut by a series of watercourses.

The landscape varies from open, gently undulating, intensively managed mixed arable and grazing land, with limited tree cover and planned rectilinear field patterns bounded by low hedges or sandstone walls inland, to permanent pasture and small remaining areas of semi-natural grassland along the coastal fringe and within valleys, with pockets of ancient woodland.

The coastal scenery is diverse, dominated by high cliffs and offshore islands in the north to sandy bays, dunes, intertidal flats and saltmarsh in the south.

The offshore islands, coast and coastal fringe support numerous iconic species such as puffin, little tern, light-bellied Brent goose and grey seal.

Whin Sill intrusions have produced dramatic landscape features including the raised beaches at Bamburgh and distinctive inland outcrops as well as being an important habitat for rare Whin grasslands.

This coastline falls within the Northumberland Coast AONB and is recognised Heritage Coast.

Fishing villages and towns are strung along the coast, with the fortified town of Berwick-upon-Tweed at the mouth of the Tweed. Inland, settlement is nucleated with dispersed farm hamlets located within large, planned 19th century estates, and small villages, often medieval in origin, on higher ground or at river crossings. Materials are typically local grey sandstone with red pantiled or grey slate roofs.

Feelings of inspiration and escapism are likely to be most strongly associated with the strong and dramatic coastline, with striking views along the coast to dramatic coastal landmarks including the
tidal causeway, castle and priory of Lindisfarne which retains a remote, spiritual quality.

The landscape is celebrated through JMW Turner’s paintings of Lindisfarne priory and the ruins of Dunstanburgh Castle.

Main beneficiary – National

Analysis – The varied nature of the coastline contributes greatly to a sense of place. Enabling natural dynamic processes such as dune roll back and reducing the impacts of coastal squeeze through measures such as managed realignment will be critical in maintaining the highly valued coastal diversity.

Panoramic views of the coastal plain, out to sea and of the Northumberland Sandstone Hills and Cheviots are key to sense of place but vertical structures are becoming increasingly prominent in the landscape. There will be challenges in allowing the area to evolve, responding to changing pressures such as demand for renewable energy while protecting the landscape character and strengthening the sense of place (Northumberland Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Landscape Sensitivity and Capacity Study, Northumberland Coast AONB, 2013).

The strong sense of place and inspiration plays a central role in attracting high numbers of visitors to the area but provision of facilities such as caravan parks, holiday and second homes and golf courses needs to be carefully managed to ensure it does not weaken landscape character.

There is a long history of mixed farming and it is important for sense of place and biodiversity that grazing of permanent pasture is retained, even in the face of increased demand for food provision.

The deterioration of hedgerows and sandstone walls and proliferation of post-and-wire fencing is weakening landscape character.

Opportunities – Protect the coastline and seek opportunities to facilitate the natural dynamic coastal processes.

Maintain and restore the distinctive habitats such as Whin grassland, sand dunes and salt marshes, and protect the iconic species that they support.

Ensure that developments and conversions respect the historic settlement patterns, using materials in keeping with the vernacular architecture.

Ensure that the impact of new developments on views, landscape character, tranquillity and light pollution are carefully considered and minimised, particularly in the case of vertical structures, taking into account the sensitivities and capacities of landscape areas.

Maintain and restore the wealth of historic buildings and other heritage assets using local materials where possible, promoting public access and interpretation where appropriate.

Support the retention of permanent pasture and grazing of cattle and sheep to ensure the continuation of mixed farming which is characteristic of the area.

Encourage the maintenance and restoration of hedgerows and sandstone walls to strengthen landscape character.

Continue to encourage access to and enjoyment of the area by the public, enhancing recreation facilities where appropriate but managing recreational use of the area to minimise sensitive habitats and species by increasing public awareness and attempting to encourage use of less vulnerable areas.

Principal services offered by opportunities

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

Sense of history

Assets/attributes: main contributors to service –

  • Archaeological sites
  • Castles and other fortified buildings and towns
  • Lindisfarne Priory
  • Industrial heritage
  • Fishing villages
  • Country houses with grounds and parklands
  • Field boundaries

State – A sense of history is evident in the NCA’s links to an early settled and heavily exploited past. Fishing, farming and mineral extraction combined with the need for cross border defence have all shaped the landscape. There have also been strong ecclesiastical influences including the Holy Island of Lindisfarne and Lindisfarne Priory (the home of St Cuthbert and the birthplace of Christianity in England).

This history is strongly evident in a legacy of archaeology from the Mesolithic onwards (A Mesolithic settlement site at Howick, Northumberland: a preliminary report. Archaeologia Aeliana 5th Series, 32: 1-12, C Waddington et al., 2003) including the Devil’s Causeway (Roman military route), battlefields, fortified buildings, the fortified town of Berwick-upon-Tweed, a number of striking ecclesiastical buildings, and defences from the Second World War. A number of these buildings are outstanding coastal landmarks such as the strategically located coastal castles at Lindisfarne (restored by Lutyens), Bamburgh and Dunstanburgh.

Villages and towns such as Seahouses and Beadnell which developed around fishing and trade in agricultural produce, lime and coal now increasingly cater for tourists.

Inland many villages have Medieval origins while isolated farm hamlets reflect the large-scale reorganisation by large estates in the late 18th- and 19th-centuries. Medieval dovecotes and 19th-century threshing chimneys are notable features of the area.

There are houses with parklands and gardens including Howick Hall with its extensive tree planting which is a Registered Garden.

The whole coast line of this NCA is recognised as Heritage Coast.

Main beneficiary – National

Analysis – Buried archaeology including a number of Scheduled Monuments is particularly threatened by ploughing in this arable landscape and this may escalate in the future with changes in climate and increasing demand for food provision.

Heritage assets along the coast are vulnerable to loss through coastal erosion and this is likely to be exacerbated by future climate change. Where possible sites should be excavated, catalogued and interpreted before they are lost.

The restoration of historic buildings including those relating to quarrying and mining should be encouraged, but training of practitioners in the use of traditional building techniques and materials may be required.

Future developments should promote the use of vernacular design where appropriate and respect historic settlement patterns.

Loss of hedgerows and the distinctive sandstone walls of the area through removal and neglect has weakened the historic character of the area; the restoration of these boundaries should be encouraged.

Opportunities – Explore opportunities for better management of below-ground archaeology on arable land, such as establishment of permanent grassland, shallow cultivation or minimum tillage agriculture, and encourage uptake of agri-environment schemes to fund such work.

Excavate record and interpret archaeological sites that are at risk of coastal erosion.

Encourage the maintenance and restoration of Scheduled Monuments, historic buildings, parkland features, traditional farm buildings and defensive structures using local building materials and styles where appropriate.

Promote training of practitioners in the use of traditional building techniques and materials to ensure the skills required to conserve the historic built environment are available and support the local economy.

Encourage management of sites to control encroachment by vegetation and erosion by animals.

Encourage the maintenance and restoration of hedgerows and sandstone walls.

Ensure new developments and conversions respect the historic settlement patterns and reflect the local vernacular in terms of building materials, scale and location.

Provide clear and imaginative interpretation of sites and landscapes to improve the understanding of the links between geology, history and current landscapes for enjoyment of the public.

Principal services offered by opportunities

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

Tranquility

Assets/attributes: main contributors to service –

  • Undeveloped coast
  • Wooded valleys
  • Panoramic views

State – The NCA has experienced a significant decline in tranquillity since the 1960s. Undisturbed areas have decreased from 96 per cent in the 1960s to 63 per cent in 2007. Areas of low tranquillity are concentrated around Berwick-upon-Tweed, the A1 and the main London to Edinburgh railway line.

Nevertheless, this is a landscape that maintains a strong sense of tranquillity especially along its spectacular undeveloped coastline, with the most tranquil spots being Holy Island and Budle Bay. Other areas associated with perceived tranquillity include the wooded valleys of the rivers Coquet and Aln, and the more intimate, occasionally wooded and rolling landscapes around Caster and other historic villages.

Some areas offer good views of the dark night sky, valued by visitors and residents alike, but light pollution of night skies in this area is increasing significantly.

Main beneficiary – Regional

Analysis – While this is still perceived as a relatively tranquil part of the country the increasing intrusion from development and traffic needs addressing if it is to remain an attractive place for quiet enjoyment and recreation.

It is necessary to consider the cumulative impacts of development including the “creeping urbanisation” of light and noise pollution when planning and assessing new developments.

It is important that people are still encouraged to enjoy the tranquillity of this place, with benefits for health and well-being, but sensitive management of visitors numbers will be needed to minimise the negative effects of tourism such as disturbance, including through careful planning of transport routes, provision of public transport and cycle routes to minimise private car use, and design and management of public access routes and infrastructure.

Opportunities – Protect the undeveloped coast.

Seek opportunities to maintain and enhance the wooded character of the Aln and Coquet river valleys.

Protect the open vistas and tranquillity by carefully considering the impact of new developments, minimising the impact of vertical structures such as wind turbines both in this and adjacent NCAs, and controlling intrusion from development and light pollution.

Sensitively manage visitor access and recreational facilities to avoid loss of tranquillity through the careful planning of transport routes, provision of public transport and cycle routes to minimise private car use, and design and management of public access routes and infrastructure.

Principal services offered by opportunities

  • Tranquillity
  • Sense of place/inspiration
  • Recreation

Recreation

Assets/attributes: main contributors to service – 

  • Coast
  • Off shore islands
  • Sea
  • Wooded valleys
  • National Nature Reserves
  • AONB and Heritage Coast
  • Castles
  • Country houses and gardens
  • A wealth of heritage assets
  • Game fisheries
  • Public rights of way
  • Long distance trails

State – The NCA offers a network of rights of way totalling 421 km at a density of 1 km per km2 including a number of long distance routes such as St Cuthbert’s Way, St Oswald’s Way and the Northumberland Coast Path. There is also the Coast and Castles National Cycle Route.

The coastline provides additional recreational opportunities such as angling, diving and water sports, and the area is nationally renowned for its nature-based tourism, particularly around the Farne Islands, Lindisfarne and Beadnell Bay.

The rivers Tweed and Coquet are important game fisheries.

Popular locations for recreation include the historic walled town of Berwick-upon-Tweed, the internationally important Lindisfarne, the coastal castles of Bamburgh and Dunstanburgh, and the gardens at Howick Hall.

Main beneficiary – National

Analysis – The coastal fringe provides a wide range of recreational opportunities and destinations and draws large numbers of visitors every year.

Tourism is very important to the area, particularly to the local economy, but visitor pressure can threaten sensitive habitats, species and landscape features if not managed appropriately.

Low-impact activities such as walking and wildlife watching that directly connect people with the natural assets of the area and enable quiet enjoyment of the natural environment should be encouraged but taking into account the impacts of increased visitor numbers on wildlife and habitats.

Visitor pressure is also associated with problems of low household incomes, high levels of second and holiday homes, and high house prices, particularly within and on the fringes of the Northumberland Coast AONB. Caravan and chalet parks and other developments associated with tourism are prevalent along the coast and can be visually intrusive.

The cumulative impacts of disturbance on key species and habitats needs to be quantified, investigated and monitored to better understand the impacts of recreation on this sensitive landscape and its internationally important species.

The footpath and cycle networks are relatively good although there are opportunities to improve these further, particularly including improving crossings of the A1 and East Coast Main Line, and several river crossings. The bridleway network is limited and fragmented (Northumberland Rights of Way Improvement Plan, Northumberland County Council). Delivery of the England Coast Path will be implemented in this area in the next few years ensuring high quality coastal access along the length of the coast (Coastal Access in England, Natural England).

Enjoyment and understanding of the landscape, with its many geological and historic features, and the area’s biodiversity can be improved through imaginative interpretation.

Litter, particularly on beaches, is an ongoing problem although much is deposited by the sea rather than being dropped by visitors.

In the future warmer, drier summers are likely to increase the risks of wildfires and may also result in reduced water levels in waterbodies used for recreation. Species such as salmon which are sensitive to thermal stress may decline which will impact on the game fishing industry.

Water quality should be maintained and improved wherever possible for the benefit of both wildlife and recreational users.

Recreation can also play a role in spreading non-native invasive species such as pirri-pirri burr.

Opportunities – Endeavour to ensure that tourism development is sustainable, sensitively utilises the landscape resource and brings socioeconomic benefits to local communities.

Sensitively manage visitor access and recreational facilities to minimise impact on the assets of this landscape through the careful planning of transport routes, provision of public transport and cycle routes to minimise private car use, and design and management of public access routes and infrastructure.

Encourage activities that depend upon and support the qualities of the natural environment such as walking, riding, bird and wildlife watching, angling.

Encourage initiatives that emphasise local distinctiveness, promoting local produce and linking it to the landscape.

Encourage research to quantify and understand the impacts of disturbance from visitors on wildlife.

Seek opportunities to increase public understanding of the impacts of disturbance on sensitive species such as over-wintering waders and manage visitor pressure to minimise this.

Ensure trampling of dunes does not result in loss of vegetation while allowing natural dune processes to continue.

Seek opportunities to enhance the footpath, cycleway and bridleway networks, including supporting implementation of the England Coastal Path, providing opportunities for a range of abilities and high quality coastal access along the entire length of coast, addressing gaps and crossings of the A1 and East Coast Main Line railway, but preventing damage to habitats and wildlife.

Seek opportunities to restore more historic, industrial and geological sites, providing imaginative interpretation of the landscape and its many features to interpret this legacy for the understanding and enjoyment of all.

Continue to address the problems of litter on the coast, both litter dropped by visitors and that deposited by maritime currents, but without removing the strandline.

Seek opportunities to increases public awareness of the mechanisms and problems of spreading invasive non-native species such as pirri-pirri burr.

Seek opportunities to improve water quality for the benefit of wildlife and recreational activities.

Principal services offered by opportunities

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

Biodiversity

Assets/attributes: main contributors to service –

  • Geology
  • Streams and rivers
  • Coast Diverse semi-natural habitats
  • Sites designated for nature conservation

State – The NCA contains 5 SAC, 3 SPA, 2 Ramsar sites, 3 NNR and 15 SSSI. Many of these designated sites are concentrated around the coast, reflecting the diverse range of nationally and internationally important habitats and species found there including calcareous, acid, Whin and maritime grasslands, lowland and cliff-top heaths, dune systems, saltmarsh, eel grass beds and reed beds.

The coast, estuaries and offshore islands provide important over-wintering and breeding grounds for large numbers of wildfowl, waders and seabirds. The Farne Islands also support approximately 10 per cent of the world population of grey seal.

Some of the rare Whin grassland is protected within designated sites such as Bamburgh Coast and Hills SSSI but a number of outcrops are unprotected and in some cases are threatened by extension of stone quarries.

Newham Fen SAC is a eutrophic basin mire in the middle of the coastal plain.

The River Tweed is designated as a SAC and the Coquet as SSSI due to their importance for species such as sea and river lamprey, Atlantic salmon and otter, and the Coquet valley contains nationally important native woodland.

The farmed plain provides roosting and foraging grounds for the overwintering shore birds and supports nationally important populations of farmland birds.

Kyloe Forest in the Northumberland Sandstone Hills NCA runs to the boundary of this NCA and has been designated as a red squirrel reserve.

Main beneficiary – International

Analysis – A number of sensitive habitats such as dunes, saltmarsh, Whin grassland and maritime cliff and slope habitats are being damaged by trampling due to increased recreational pressure. Disturbance from recreation and activities such as bait-digging, particularly of over-wintering shorebirds, is also recognised as a problem, and it is predicted that visitor numbers will continue to rise.

Inappropriate grazing regimes and scrub encroachment threaten dunes, saltmarsh, grasslands and heathland. A number of the remaining Whin grassland sites are not currently
protected and may be lost to quarrying.

Natural development of coastal habitats such as sand dunes, salt marsh and mudflats is currently affected by artificial barriers and management practices. These habitats, along with rocky foreshore habitats will also be vulnerable to coastal squeeze as sea level rises.

Ensuring good water quality in streams, rivers and coastal waters, restoring as natural a morphology as possible and controlling invasives such as Himalayan balsam, Japanese knotweed and signal crayfish will benefit the nationally and internationally important species found there and will ensure the continuing reputation of the rivers in this NCA as important game fisheries.

Other non-native invasive species such as pirri-pirri burr and cord grass also need to be monitored and controlled to ensure they do not displace important native species.

There are opportunities to buffer Newham Fen SAC by improving the wider hydrological unit through wet grassland management in the surrounding area.

There are opportunities to greatly enhance the heterogeneity and permeability of the farmed plain by restoring hedgerows, establishing grass margins, encouraging the use of overwinter stubbles and temporary grass, field corners for nectar and wild-bird seed mixes, and reedbeds. This will benefit farmland birds and overwintering shorebirds and buffer the sensitive coastal habitats and watercourses.

Native woodland is predominantly confined to river valleys and the area around Howick. Restoring and extending these woodland fragments, particularly by planting along water courses, should create a more coherent ecological network which will be more resilient to climate change, while strengthening landscape character.

The area buffering the Kyloe red squirrel reserve needs to consider management for this species.

Opportunities – Encourage research to quantify and understand the impacts of disturbance on wildlife from visitors and activities such as bait-digging.

Seek opportunities to increase public understanding of the impacts of disturbance on sensitive species and habitats, including disturbance to over-wintering waders and damage to sensitive habitats caused by trampling. Manage visitor pressure to minimise this.

Encourage sustainable grazing of dune systems, saltmarsh and grasslands and manage scrub where appropriate.

Seek opportunities to protect existing Whin grassland sites from loss through quarrying and restore former quarry workings back to Whin grassland.

Seek opportunities to restore and expand semi-natural grasslands, heathlands, wetlands and scrub habitats, aiming to re-establish and expand the fringe of semi-natural vegetation all along the coast.

Enable natural coastal processes to operate wherever possible while maintaining essential sea defences as recommended in the Shoreline Management Plan.

Seek opportunities to allow natural roll back of sand dunes, particularly between Scremerston and Lindisfarne, by reversion of the coastal strip to grassland.

Seek opportunities to negotiate the creation or expansion of saltmarsh habitat by allowing tidal flooding of farmland.

Work with farmers, fishermen, local residents and water companies to improve water quality in rivers, estuaries and along the coast, and to reduce the amount of litter washed up and left on the area’s beaches.

Encourage the establishment of buffer strips, reed beds, settling ponds and wetland areas to reduce diffuse pollution and enhance the biodiversity value of the farmed environment.

Monitor and control non-native invasive species.

Encourage wet grassland management which will benefit waders, particularly around Newham Fen SAC.

In arable areas encourage measures to support pollinators and farmland birds, such as sowing wild bird seed and nectar flower mixes and establishing cereal headlands. Encourage the use of over-wintered stubbles, and temporary grass, particularly along the coastal fringe, to benefit overwintering shorebirds.

Increase connectivity within the landscape through hedgerow restoration, field margin management and tree planting along watercourses.

Buffer the Kyloe red squirrel reserve by controlling grey squirrels and avoiding planting of large-seeded deciduous species in the vicinity.

Seek opportunities to expand and link woodland fragments, particularly along water courses and within the area around Howick.

Principal services offered by opportunities

  • Biodiversity
  • Food provision
  • Climate regulation
  • Regulating water quality
  • Regulating soil erosion
  • Regulating coastal erosion and flooding
  • Pollination
  • Pest regulation
  • Sense of place/inspiration
  • Tranquillity
  • Recreation

Geodiversity

Assets/attributes: main contributors to service

  • Geology
  • Coastal processes
  • Water courses
  • Soils

State – The underlying Carboniferous rocks give rise to the characteristic and diverse coastline with the resistant dolerite and sandstone headlands alternating with sandy bays where ‘softer’ rocks have eroded.

This area has nationally important geological features with two geological SSSI and four mixed interest SSSI.

Outcrops of the nationally important Whin Sill and related dolerite occur both inland and on the coast forming striking cliffs at Castle Point and Cullernose Point, the outcrops on which Bamburgh and Lindisfarne castles sit, and the rocky, offshore Farne Islands.

The geology is associated with a number of nationally and internationally important habitats such as Whin grassland, sand dune systems and salt marsh communities.

Inland the thick layer of glacial till that overlays the bedrock gives rise to fertile agricultural soils that support arable production with some grazing.

There is a long history of hard stone quarrying. Sandstone was quarried for building stone and whinstone has long been quarried for road stone, although it has also been used extensively for buildings in Bamburgh,

Craster and Embleton where it gives a distinctive character to the cottages built from it. There are currently four active stone quarries.

Limestone was quarried and burnt on a large-scale at Holy Island, Seahouses and Beadnell and the limekilns are still prominent features.

Coal was mined around Scremerston and in the south of the NCA around Shilbottle but these mines are now closed and there are no plans for further coal mining in the NCA (Northumberland Minerals Local Plan, Northumberland County Council, 2000).

Main beneficiary – National

Analysis – The geology and landform of the coast and outcrops of the Whin Sill combined with the use of local grey sandstone in the construction of traditional buildings and stone walls are key to the strong sense of place.

Improving interpretation of and access to the geodiversity of the area would enhance public understanding and enjoyment of the area and strengthen sense of place.

The coast offers some of the finest and most complete sections through the Lower Carboniferous rocks of northern England. These sites, along with quarries and geological SSSI provide vital education and research opportunities, both to demonstrate the essential characteristics of these rocks, and to learn about the processes that created them (Northumberland Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and European Marine Site, Geodiversity Audit and Action Plan).

There are currently no Local Geological Sites. Identification and designation of Local Geological Sites would provide additional protection for key geological features as well as providing new opportunities for education and interpretation.

There are no plans for future coal mining in this NCA but stone quarrying will continue as this area is important for supplying the north of England with road stone and local stone is required for restoration and new developments to reinforce landscape character.

Opportunities – Conserve and enhance nationally important and designated geological features and encourage the use of key geological sites as an educational and research resource.

Encourage the identification and designation of Local Geological Sites.

Exploit opportunities presented by quarries to accurately record geological sections, and collect and curate representative specimens to further knowledge and understanding of the local geology.

Improve access to and interpretation of geological sites and features, including designated sites and quarries, and explore the possibility of geo-trails, to enhance the public’s understanding and enjoyment of the area.

Preserve sites and features associated with the industrial use of geodiversity, such as Beadnell and Seahouses lime kilns and the whinstone chippings silo base at Craster Harbour, and provide interpretation.

Maintain vernacular buildings and dry stone walls using local stone wherever possible to reinforce links with the underlying geology and strengthen sense of place.

Principal services offered by opportunities

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