National Character Area 144

Quantock Hills - 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

A rural landscape of a combination of small irregular ancient fields and larger rectangular fields. The fields are bounded by mixed species hedges or by beech hedgebanks.

Justification for selection:

  • The field patterns reflect the history of the area, from the small bronze-age fields to the larger fields of the parliamentary enclosure.
  • Beech hedgebanks are a characteristic feature of the Quantock landscape.
  • Hedges form wildlife corridors between larger habitats.
  • The pattern of hedgerows helps to prevent soil erosion.

The heathland on the top of the Quantocks which represents the southern outlier of upland heath, mixed with Atlantic (western) heaths and lowland heath. Damper areas contain acid flushes and streams flow down from the hill tops to the farmland below.

Justification for selection:

  • The mosaic of dwarf shrub heath that covers much of the plateau is the most characteristic habitat of the NCA. The heathland is designated as an SSSI.
  • The heath is of high biodiversity value, being home to some rare species such as the nightjar and skylark.
  • The heath is of high value for pollinating insects.
  • The heathland, especially the acidic flushes, works as a carbon store.
  • The area is attractive for walkers, horse riding and mountain bikers.
  • Streams form a valuable freshwater habitat and the Quantock streams tend to be of good water quality.

Broadleaved woodlands concentrated in combes and the valleys of the NCA.

Justification for selection:

  • Woodlands are designated as SAC and SSSI.
  • At the head of the combes, tongues of scrubby woodland merge with the heathland to create an edge habitat of considerable value.
  • The woodlands are an integral part of the Quantock landscape.
  • They increase biodiversity and provide cover for iconic species such as red deer and nesting sites for birds such as pied flycatchers.
  • Much of the western oak woodland is classified as ancient woodland.

A scattered settlement pattern of individual houses, tiny hamlets and small villages. The area shows a surprisingly diverse array of vernacular building styles which arises from the rich variety of local building materials.

Justification for selection:

  • Each of the Quantock villages has its own identity which helps to create the character of the area.
  • There are many listed buildings.
  • Interesting examples of a distinctive style of farm building, constructed with rough blocks of sandstone, smaller blocks of sandstone with cob or brick above and thatched or tiled roofs.

The many historic features of the landscape, including bronze-age barrows, Saxon field patterns, medieval manors and parkland.

Justification for selection:

  • There are 49 Scheduled Ancient Monuments within the NCA.
  • The ancient field patterns, barrows, standing stones and other monuments help to provoke a sense of place.
  • There are veteran trees in the parks these are often a significant ecological resource.

Landscape opportunities

  • Protect and manage the historic hedgerows and hedgerow trees, replanting where necessary, for example where old beech trees have fallen or hedgerows have developed gaps.
  • Protect and manage the valuable semi-natural habitats to maintain and increase biodiversity by use of appropriate management techniques, for example grazing the heathland.
  • Protect historic features across the NCA, including earthwork remains, standing stones, medieval field systems and manor houses for their strong contribution to the sense of place and sense of history and so that the nationally important record of the past remains.
  • Protect the current historic settlement pattern by encouraging any new building to be within current settlements and to match the local vernacular.
  • Manage parklands to retain ancient and veteran trees whenever possible.
  • Conserve and manage the plateau landscapes for their local distinctiveness and high levels of tranquillity with exposed high open moorland and more intimate wooded valleys, ancient pasture fields, mixed agriculture and historic settlements.
  • Protect from damage and appropriately manage the area’s rich cultural heritage, most notably bronze- and iron-age remains, hill-top enclosures and earthworks and estates and planned landscapes.
  • Manage sustainably the herds of red deer so that they do not damage biodiversity but remain an integral part of the Quantocks landscape.
  • Protect and manage ancient and semi natural woodland, restoring paws and creating targeted new woodland where appropriate.
  • The regeneration of overgrown beech hedgebanks represents a challenge in how to retain these distinctive Quantock features by means of a sensitive long term management plan.
  • Manage and extend the biodiverse wet heathland and acid flushes which help to control the water quality and flow of water to the lower land of the Vale of Taunton and Quantock Fringes NCA.