National Character Area 45

Northern Lincolnshire Edge with Coversands - Analysis: Landscape Attributes & Opportunities

Analysis supporting Statements of Environmental Opportunity

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

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

Landscape attributes

Underlying geology of Jurassic Limestone forming a distinctive north-south ridge with scarp slope on west side; ironstone to north of Scunthorpe.

Justification for selection:

  • Distinct landform of cliff and open plateau contributes to a strong sense of place.
  • Five Sites of Special Scientific Interest designated for their geological interest, along with 25 Local Geological Sites.
  • Ironstone contains many fossils, including oysters and ammonites, while disused limestone quarries reveal underlying limestone formations and calcareous habitats.
  • Presence of ironstone has determined historical development of iron and steel manufacturing and associated engineering works that dominate Scunthorpe and surrounds.
  • Disused limestone, ironstone and sand quarries now provide important exposures of geological features along with semi-natural habitats.

Windblown sands north and east of Scunthorpe giving rise to inland dune system and supporting dune and dry heath vegetation, with some conifer plantations and oak/birch woodland.

Justification for selection:

  • Sandy soils give rise to a distinctive acidic landscape of open heathland with birch and oak woodlands.
  • Risby Warren SSSI comprises one of the finest inland dune systems in Britain, with clear surface morphology and sand dune forms, along with heathland, acid and calcareous grassland and scrub.
  • Sand exploited for building and engineering uses, and latterly silica sand exploited for industrial processes, giving rise to sites with a range of habitats from open water to acid grassland, dry heath and scrub, with opportunities for access and recreation.

Free draining loamy soils on limestone ridge giving rise to productive cropping managed from large farmsteads and organised within large rectilinear fields, bounded by tightly cropped hedgerows and occasional limestone rubble walls.

Justification for selection:

  • Productive farmland, most of it managed in large units over 100 ha.
  • Predominantly arable (cereals, oilseeds, potatoes and other arable crops) with specialist pig and poultry farms.
  • Large rectilinear fields arising from 18th and 19th century enclosure of the limestone plateau.
  • Limestone walls more frequent on the west side of the ridge, around Fillingham and Willoughton.
  • Farms often large, with big sheds overshadowing the original stone-built farmhouse.

Few trees on higher land, with occasional sheltering copses and small plantation woodlands.

Justification for selection:

  • 6.5 per cent of the area is covered by broadleaved and mixed woodland, of which 2.5 per cent is priority broadleaved woodland habitat.
  • Only 44 ha of ancient semi-natural woodland, and 231 ha of plantation on ancient woodland sites.
  • Conifer plantations from the inter-war period remain in places on the infertile sandy soils.

Few settlements on higher land, but several spring-line villages along foot of scarp, with more woodlands and parklands.

Justification for selection:

  • Distinct line of villages along springline at foot of slope – Kirton in Lindsey, Blyborough, Willoughton, Hemswell, Harpswell, Glentworth, Fillingham, Grayingham, Ingham, Brattleby, Scampton, North and South Carlton, Burton.
  • Parklands, for example around Blyborough and Fillingham.
  • Many of the villages are attractive, with houses, farmsteads and walls built of soft, warm-coloured local limestone with red or brown tiles.

Active and re-used airfields are prominent features on the limestone ridge along with communications masts.

  • RAF Scampton is still active and is the base for the Red Arrows.
  • The airfield at Hemswell Cliff is now an industrial park with major grain store silos, warehousing and retail stores.
  • Disused airfields still evident through hard standing, boundaries, derelict or re-used military buildings, although some loss of military features has occurred.


Long straight roads, often with wide verges.

Justification for selection:

  • Historic Roman road network evident, with minor straight roads leading off Ermine Street, now the busy A15, to cross the limestone plateau, leading to villages such as Normanby and Thealby.
  • Wide verges support a range of flowering species, creating important corridors for wildlife as well as providing an experience for travellers.

Evidence of Roman influence through roads, tracks, and medieval settlement, also evidence of abandoned villages.

Justification for selection:

  • Early settlement is visible along the Edge including prehistoric burial mounds, linear boundary features and tracks.
  • Ermine Street runs north-south through the area, linking the fort and colonia at Lincoln with the crossing of the River Humber.
  • Medieval settlement evident through current settlement names and patterns.
  • Ground features provide evidence for medieval villages probably abandoned as a result of agricultural changes, for instance at Gainsthorpe and Sawcliffe.

Panoramic views out over Humberhead Levels to the west; Lincoln Cathedral in prominent location on top of Edge above Witham Gap, and visually prominent steelworks at Scunthorpe.

Justification for selection:

  • Views out over the Levels enjoyed in particular from viewpoints at Scampton and Hemswell.
  • Lincoln Cathedral visible from many miles around.
  • Steelworks tower above the centre of Scunthorpe and are visible from considerable distances around the town.

The city of Lincoln in the south, based on a Roman settlement, with medieval features still evident.

Justification for selection:

    • Visible remains of Roman city, city walls, medieval town houses and later archaeology and architecture still evident within the city.
    • The Norman cathedral in Lincoln was started in 1088 and continued in phases throughout the medieval period, including two fine rose windows.
    • John Ruskin considered the cathedral to be “… the most precious piece of architecture in the British Isles, …worth any two other cathedrals we have”.

Landscape opportunities

  • Protect the scarp slope from inappropriate development, increasing woodland cover where possible.
  • Retain long, panoramic views out over adjacent lower-lying land, especially from the scarp slope in the west.
  • Protect the inland sand dune systems and other windblown sand formations.
  • Protect and manage the sandy habitats of lichen heathland, lowland heathland and dry acid grassland.
  • Extend the areas of lowland heathland, linking existing areas where possible and negotiating to remove scrub and woodland where heathland restoration is possible.
  • Manage existing oak and birch woodland.
  • Manage existing wet woodland, and extend and buffer where possible.
  • Encourage mixed farming where appropriate to introduce more managed grassland into rotations and provide conditions suitable for more farmland birds and arable plants.
  • Manage existing hedges, allowing them to fill out, and plant to fill in gaps.
  • Restore and introduce hedges into key locations to reinforce field patterns.
  • Manage existing plantation woodlands to ensure their long-term survival as landscape features, increasing the content of native broadleaves where possible.
  • Increase the area of native broadleaved woodland especially along the scarp slope of the Edge in the west, but giving preference to heathland and heathland restoration on sandy soils.
  • Manage grassy verges to encourage greater species richness and to maintain them as a feature of the long straight roads.
  • Manage disused limestone, ironstone and sand quarries to retain their geological interest, and expand their habitats of interest, including limestone grassland, dry acid grassland and heathland as well as open water and wetland habitats, providing access where possible.
  • Restore disused ironstone and sand extraction sites, ensuring the creation of habitats such as species rich grassland, heathland and broadleaved woodland and managing them to enhance biodiversity interest as well as strengthen local landscape character; provide access and recreation where appropriate.
  • In restoration schemes, ensure that new open water and wetland habitats are managed to contribute to the local landscape and enhance biodiversity interest
  • Protect stone-built vernacular architecture including farmhouses and farmsteads, and use appropriate materials and techniques when restoring vernacular architecture.
  • Protect and manage the historic features of parklands, including veteran trees.
  • Protect long-distance views of the impressive Lincoln Cathedral.
  • Protect, conserve and interpret the many town houses and other structures that reveal the rich Roman and medieval history of the city of Lincoln.
  • Enhance the contrast between the open plateau and the wooded scarp slopes by encouraging more woodland establishment on the slopes.
  • Encourage the establishment of permanent grassland to protect the evidence of medieval settlements and other ground features.
  • Maintain and restore limestone rubble walls.
  • Ensure that new irrigation reservoirs are constructed so that they contribute to biodiversity interest and fit in to local landform and landscape.