National Character Area 63

Oswestry Uplands - Summary and Headline Statements of Environmental Opportunity

Summary

The Oswestry Uplands National Character Area (NCA) is a small yet distinct landscape of steep-sided, flat-topped hills mainly of limestone and narrow, wooded valleys and streams. It forms the eastern edge of the Clwydian Hills which extend from Mid Wales. The area has strong Welsh cultural associations which blend into this western edge of Shropshire. The hills rise quite steeply from gentle foothills crossing into the Shropshire, Cheshire and Staffordshire Plain NCA and overlook Oswestry, a typical market town of the Welsh Marches. Much of the area is deeply rural with small, irregular fields, copses, shelterbelts and woodlands. Scattered farms and hamlets are reached by narrow, winding and usually deeply sunken lanes. As the land rises, the irregular field pattern changes to a more rectilinear one with lower, frequently trimmed hazel hedges.

Woodland covers 9 per cent of this NCA which also includes a short section of the River Ceiriog, a tributary of the River Dee, part of the internationally important River Dee and Bala Lake Special Area of Conservation designated for its rare watercourse vegetation. The land is predominantly used for pasture and supports an important local sheep and beef cattle industry, with arable land limited to the lower parts in the east. The area has a wooded character due to the many woodlands on hill tops and sides. Towards the south, extensive limestone quarries are present, both active and disused, the latter now mostly overgrown. The historic Offa’s Dyke Path National Trail winds across the western ridges, and associated hill forts on major summits, notably Old Oswestry, emphasise the turbulent history of this border area.

There is great potential to significantly expand key woodland and calcareous grassland habitats, securing environmental benefits which will help to ensure ecological connections across administrative boundaries and to improve soil quality and climate regulation, as well as enhancing biodiversity, tranquillity and sense of place. Future challenges for this NCA include ensuring that livestock farming maintains and enhances the character of the landscape. Continuing to provide outdoor recreational opportunities for local communities and managing wider visitor pressure will also be challenges, ensuring that increased access and travel do not erode the tranquillity of this special area.

Headline Statements of Environmental Opportunity (SEO)

See the Statements of Environmental Opportunity section for more details on the headlines listed below.

SEO 1

Protect and enhance the area’s distinctive and intricate historic landscape character – particularly its transitional character from the plains of Shropshire, Cheshire and Staffordshire into the uplands of Mid Wales, and its mosaic of pasture, woodlands and grasslands – to retain sense of place, enhance biodiversity networks and retain the area’s high tranquillity levels.

SEO 2

Protect the distinctive cultural and geological heritage resource across the National Character Area, from traditional buildings and industrial sites to the famous earthworks at Old Oswestry Hill Fort and Offa’s and Wat’s dykes, so that people can enjoy the recreational and educational benefits of this special area.

SEO 3

Sustainably manage the soils, productive farming, woodlands, streams, rivers and grasslands that contribute to the sense of place, maintaining viable long-term food production while enhancing water quality, water flow and climate regulation.