National Character Area 123

Romney Marshes - 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 Romney Marshes 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 –

  • Pasture
  • Arable
  • Fertile productive soils supporting high-quality agricultural land

State – A mixture of livestock and arable farming. Intensive agriculture typifies a large part of this area. Sheep farming predominates over cattle (2009 – cattle 4,823 and sheep 93,161).

Romney salt marsh lamb is branded and sold locally.

The area is renowned for its associations with the Romney breed of sheep although these have declined in number.

Main beneficiary – Regional

Analysis – The highly productive soils mean this area is likely to continue to be farmed intensively with changes driven by agricultural markets.

Sheep grazing is closely linked to many of the cultural aspects of the area; sense of place, biodiversity, sense of history and heritage assets.

Because of the high-quality soils, the NCA is likely to have a high proportion of Best Most Versatile Land, land most useful for agriculture. The loss of more than 20 ha of this type of land to new development should be avoided.

Opportunities – Work with the farming community to ensure good soil and nutrient management to secure a sustainable future for farming, protecting environmental features within the NCA, and supporting the supply of other ecosystem services.

Promote local food initiatives and brands, especially where it provides links with biodiversity and landscape character, benefiting sense of place.

There is a need to maintain and support the farming community to maintain a mixed farm landscape and balance of arable and permanent pasture grazed by sheep – helping to ensure that the cultural associations with grazing marsh continue and it remains a component of the landscape.

Identify opportunities to for land management measures which positively influence water quality and reduce diffuse pollution, while maintaining viable levels of productivity.

Encourage local planning authorities and developers to consider avoiding Best Most Versatile Land when considering any development.

Principal services offered by opportunities

  • Food provision
  • Sense of place/inspiration
  • Sense of history
  • Regulating soil quality
  • Regulating water quality

Timber provision

Assets/attributes: main contributors to service –

  • Small blocks of woodland on the higher ground

State – There is a very little existing woodland cover within the NCA (less than 1 percent) offering limited potential for the provision of timber.

Main beneficiary – Local

Analysis – The open and expansive marshes do not lend themselves to woodland expansion as this would contrast with the existing open landscape character, valued for long, wide views and big skies.

Better management of the clusters of woodland on higher ground may be beneficial but is not of a scale which would yield any significant timber.

Opportunities – Retain the predominantly open and windswept marshes while appropriately managing existing small woodland blocks on the higher ground.

Principal services offered by opportunities

  • Timber provision
  • Sense of place/inspiration

Water availability

Assets/attributes: main contributors to service –

  • Gravel aquifer
  • Main rivers
  • Complex drainage system of Internal Drainage Board sewers and private ditches

State – The NCA contains a shingle aquifer at Dungeness (Denge gravel aquifer) along the coastal edge, which supports an important local public water supply and is purely rain fed. The current quantitative quality is poor with no water available for abstraction. It is closely monitored for saline intrusion and has specific drought restrictions (Rother Abstraction Licensing Strategy, Environment Agency, 2013).

The main rivers that fall within the NCA are the Rother and further south the Brede, as well as a small section of the Tillingham. These occur in the west and rise in the adjacent High Weald NCA.

The Rother has a status of water not available for licensing. Any new abstractions from the River Brede would need to be assessed to protect the ecological importance and existing rights. The Tillingham has a status of water available (sub catchment not heavily drawn on for abstraction).

The area is dissected by drainage ditches and water levels are managed to protect the marshes from flooding and to assist in sustaining arable farming, and wet fencing. Major drains are managed by the Environment Agency. Less major ones are maintained by the Romney Marshes Area Internal Drainage Board, which operates across the Romney Marshes area and minor ditches by local farmers.

The marshes are bounded by the Royal Military Canal, which is key in the operation of the marsh summer feed system and for drainage and flood defence purposes.

Walland Marsh is dependent on direct rainfall and water from the Royal Military Canal and has a status of ‘no water available for licensing’. Due to the dependency the Walland Marsh has on water transferred into the Royal Military Canal from the Rother, flows upstream in the Rother catchment (and outside of the NCA) need to be protected (Rother Abstraction Licensing Strategy, Environment Agency, 2013).

Main beneficiary – Local

Analysis – The south-east of England is under increasing pressures from climate change and population growth and as a result demand for water is likely to increase. It will therefore become increasingly important to manage the water resources of the NCA sustainably to meet the demands of agriculture, industry and public water supply.

Although only a small portion of the NCA is considered to be urban (2 percent according to data from the CPRE), urban areas have a significant impact on water usage. The importance and sensitivity of the area’s habitats such as the Dungeness SAC together with the significance of the NCA for agriculture mean that water efficiency measures will be important for any new development.

The marshes that cover most of the area are important for agriculture. The largest concentration of non- public water supply abstraction pressure is seen in the marshes for agricultural purposes. The marshes also consist of wetlands of international importance. The wetland habitats and species are sensitive to changes in water level and river flows and hence protection of water resources is fundamental for biodiversity (Rother Abstraction Licensing Strategy, Environment Agency, 2013).

The Denge gravel aquifer lies below the largest shingle system in Europe, the distinctive internationally designated flora and fauna is influenced by the groundwater levels. A balance between abstractions and recharge is important not only to safeguard groundwater levels but also to limit saline intrusion into the aquifer, which can affect the viability of the aquifer as a source of public water supply.

In the past increased abstraction of water for public supply combined with other factors, such as evaporation from the new gravel pits, has lowered the shingle aquifer and damaged some of the rare vegetation types (Rother Abstraction Licensing Strategy, Environment Agency, 2013).

Opportunities – Abstractions need to be carefully monitored to safeguard the water supply and protect the internationally designated sites.

Implementation of plans and strategies which consider water level requirements holistically and for a range of activities (agriculture, flood risk and conservation) and how these can be reconciled and integrated, allowing for the continued flow of water and flood risk management while protecting, enhancing and managing the ditches in a way that is sensitive to the ditch flora and fauna.

Promote water efficiency in any future building design and development and encourage the use of sustainable urban drainage systems to protect designated sites and agriculture.

Principal services offered by opportunities

  • Water availability
  • Biodiversity
  • Sense of place/inspiration
  • Regulating water quality

Genetic diversity

No information available.

Biomass energy

Assets/attributes: main contributors to service –

  • Small woodlands associated with the higher ground

State – There is a very little existing woodland cover within the NCA (0.85 percent) offering very limited potential for the provision of wood fuel biomass.

The potential yield for short rotation coppice is identified as medium throughout most of the NCA, although it is low along the coast. The potential yield for miscanthus is high throughout the area. However, despite this potential, biomass crops do not form part of the current landscape character and hence any growth of biomass crops would need to be carefully considered. For information on the potential landscape impacts of the biomass plantings within the NCA, refer to the tables on the Natural England website.

Main beneficiary – Local

Analysis – There is very limited scope for an increase in biomass energy given the low woodland coverage and the open and windswept landscape character which is a limiting factor in the location of new biomass or woodland plantings.

Versatile fertile soils, a moderate climate and high water levels promote vigorous vegetative growth making the area suitable for biomass production in the form of either miscanthus or short rotation coppice. However, competing demands such as agriculture, nature conservation and archaeological deposits limit the potential for production.

Opportunities – Utilise any opportunities for improved woodland management on the higher ground which could provide a source of local biomass and benefit biodiversity.

Principal services offered by opportunities

  • Biomass energy
  • Sense of place/inspiration
  • Biodiversity

Regulating Services

Climate regulation

Assets/attributes: main contributors to service –

  • Loamy/clayey soils of coastal flats
  • Estuaries, wetlands, grazing marsh and permanent pasture

State – Variants of the loamy/clayey soils of coastal flats (the main soil type, covering around three quarters of the NCA) may have more organic-rich topsoils, while some of the flood plain soil types are peaty at depth or include small areas of peaty soils.

Carbon stores will be locked in the wetlands (flood plain grazing marsh) and permanent pastures.

Main beneficiary – Local

Analysis – Areas of semi-natural grassland and wetlands hold locally significant amounts of carbon in their soils and hence it is beneficial to maintain these areas of permanent grassland.

Where arable farming is prevalent there may be potential for carbon storage by increasing organic matter inputs, employing minimum tillage techniques and retaining buffer strips as an example.

Conversion to grazing marsh from arable could be of benefit for climate regulation as well as for sense of place and biodiversity but this is unlikely to be economical unless market drivers change in future and arable farming becomes less attractive.

Opportunities – Realise opportunities to further protect and expand areas of flood plain and coastal grazing marsh, reedbeds, salt marsh and mudflats.

Encourage farmers and land managers to adopt good soil management practices including enhancing organic matter content to improve carbon storage, soil quality and long-term soil resilience to climate change.

Restore, expand and relink the wetland habitats of the river valleys to provide potential carbon stores.

Ensure that realignment initiatives are managed to their full potential to develop into habitats that sequester and store carbon, benefit biodiversity interest and enhance the landscape of the coast.

Support management measures that result in the maintenance and accretion of tidal salt marsh with its high carbon sequestration rates and low methane emissions.

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 –

  • Coast
  • Coastal transitional habitats

State – This is a complex shoreline and the Folkestone to Cliff End flood and erosion management strategy should be consulted for more detailed information on the proposed policies and the context within which they sit. The policy for the vast majority of the coastline within the NCA is to ‘Hold the Line’ and improve the existing sea defences (Folkestone to Cliff End Flood and Erosion Management Strategy, Environment Agency 2011).

The improvements will provide protection to 16,500 homes, businesses, two MoD ranges and the nuclear power station across Romney Marsh.

Main beneficiary – National

Analysis – Natural and artificial coastal defences are critical in maintaining the existence of the NCA and preserving its farmland, settlements and nationally and internationally designated habitats.

The marshes backing the NCA’s northern coastline are very low-lying, such that any inundation could potentially affect a great expanse of land. As such, the benefits of continuing to provide flood protection will include the protection of property, the conservation of internationally important wildlife sites, maintenance of amenity features (such as the light railway), maintenance of heritage features (such as Dymchurch Redoubt) and large areas of agricultural land.

Dungeness Power Station is protected by a heavily managed shingle bund, crucial for health and safety reasons.

A major impact of the policy of ‘Hold the Line’ where artificial defences are required such as at Dymchurch and Romney is the narrowing of the sandy intertidal area which will be highly susceptible to coastal squeeze under rising sea levels.

Opportunities – Coastal flooding should be regulated in accordance with the shoreline management plan, to reduce flood risk and protection of the environmental assets.

Encourage the natural development, adaptation and regeneration of coastal habitats including sand dunes and shingle beaches, maintaining their flood risk management, environmental and recreational value, while allowing the shoreline to function dynamically.

Encourage research which furthers our understanding of coastal processes and risk management to enable well- informed management decisions in the future.

Principal services offered by opportunities

  • Regulating coastal erosion and flooding
  • Regulating soil erosion
  • Water availability
  • Biodiversity
  • Recreation
  • Geodiversity

Regulating water quality

Assets/attributes: main contributors to service –

  • Gravel aquifer
  • Rivers, sewers and ditches
  • Semi-natural habitats

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 – Local

Analysis – Water quality is important for sustaining the quality of habitats and their associated species related to the extensive network of ditches that intersect the NCA, the biodiversity of the main river corridors and also that of the vegetated shingle which can be affected by the water quality of the aquifer.

Groundwater from the freshwater pits at Dungeness is abstracted for water supply. The wells are closed if saline intrusion is detected.

Maintaining water quality is important for the public water supply and improved water quality will help reduce the costs of end of pipe solutions.

River water quality of the Brede and Rother is influenced by other upper catchment NCAs, and hence important to work across NCA boundaries and at the catchment scale to improve water quality within the NCA.

Measures are being promoted within the Eastern Rother and Walland Marsh priority catchment to reduce mobilisation and transportation of sediment and nutrients, improve management of water within farmyards and improve treatment of pesticide washings (Capital Grant Scheme – Funding Priority Statement 2013/2014, Eastern Rother and Walland Marsh).

The extensive network of drainage ditches surrounding farmland means that diffuse pollution from agriculture can quickly enter the open water network, especially where soils have poor infiltration, increasing potential for water run-off.

Opportunities – Promote the principles of catchment sensitive farming across the NCA to reduce the impacts of diffuse pollution from agriculture and to protect and enhance the surface waters of the NCA, including through the promotion of options such as buffer strips to reduce sediment and nutrient run- off into adjacent watercourses.

Explore opportunities for the expansion of semi-natural wetland habitats such as reedbeds to act as nutrient sinks.

Seek opportunities to work in partnership and across sectors to deliver Water Framework Directive objectives and support catchment based initiatives.

Promote good quality water environments, important for social, economic and quality of life benefits.

Encourage awareness of water pathways and receptors especially for any planned development especially in respect of the Dungeness SAC and Dungeness to Pett Level SPA.

Principal services offered by opportunities

  • Regulating water quality
  • Biodiversity
  • Regulating soil erosion
  • Regulating soil quality

Regulating water flow

Assets/attributes: main contributors to service –

  • Semi-natural habitats
  • Network of ditches
  • Flood plain and coastal grazing marsh

State – The flood risk within the NCA is complex, with much of the low lying areas of the marshes (Romney and Walland Marshes policy unit) at risk from both river and coastal flooding.

An extensive network of drains and management of water levels in the Royal Military Canal control water movement within the Marshes, where the current level of flood risk from river flooding is considered relatively low.

Flood risk in Rye is high with the confluence of the rivers Rother, Brede and Tillingham. While flooding is mainly caused by rivers tide locking effects can be significant and will increase with rising sea levels (Rother and Romney Catchment Flood Management Plan, Summary Report, Environment Agency, December 2009).

Main beneficiary – Regional

Analysis – The effects of flooding are likely to be influenced in future by a whole range of issues including climate change. It is therefore important to understand and plan for potential changes to flood risk within the catchment and how these can best be managed.

Actions which help to store water or manage run-off in locations that provide overall flood risk reduction or environmental benefits would be beneficial, also creating wetland habitats which can increase water storage within the flood plain. This may have added benefits for reconnecting and enhancing existing habitats for the benefit of biodiversity and landscape.

The habitats and species of the NCA (including designated habitats and protected species) are influenced by changes in water flow; hence management of water flow is critical for not only managing flood risk but also maintaining the biodiversity interest of the watercourses. These differing requirements are not always compatible.

Opportunities – Work in partnership to implement the water Level management plans to help manage flood risk and biodiversity needs, conserving and enhancing the SSSI, pSPA, SAC and pRamsar sites and exploring opportunities to create freshwater habitat when managing flood risk.

As per the Rother And Romney Catchment Flood Management Plan, explore the commissioning of further research which helps to further understanding of the interactions between coastal and river flooding.

While most of the NCA is rural, any new or expansion to existing developments within and in the wider catchments should be appropriately designed to ensure no increase in run-off and hence flood risk.

Principal services offered by opportunities

  • Regulating water flow
  • Biodiversity

Regulating soil quality

Assets/attributes: main contributors to service –

  • Soils – fertile soils formed from alluvial deposits
  • Permanent grassland and semi-natural habitats

State – Five main soilscape types have been identified in this NCA:

  • Loamy and clayey soils of coastal flats with naturally high groundwater which cover nearly three-quarters of the NCA;
  • Smaller areas of sand dune soils;
  • Slowly permeable seasonally wet slightly acid but base-rich loamy and clayey soils;
  • Slightly acid loamy and clayey soils with impeded drainage
  • Loamy and clayey flood plain soils with naturally high groundwater.

Main beneficiary – Regional

Analysis – The loamy and clayey soils of coastal flats with naturally high groundwater have a high agricultural potential, but this is dependent on the continued ability to pump drain and protect the soils from sea flooding/saline intrusion. These soils are increasingly under threat of loss from sea level rise.

Where there is a high silt/fine sand content, these soils may also suffer from compaction and/or capping, an issue that also affects the slowly permeable seasonally wet slightly acid but base-rich loamy and clayey soils. In turn this may lead to increasingly poor water infiltration.

Sand dune soils are valuable for the control of sea flooding but under threat from sea level rise.

Opportunities – Work with land managers to protect and improve soil quality and management. Protect the sustainability of future yields, while benefiting other regulatory services such as water availability, water quality and avoidance of soil erosion through improving organic matter levels, soil structure and water infiltration.

Encourage where appropriate the extension and linking of semi-natural habitats particularly grassland to capture run-off and reduce the problems of pollution.

Ensure careful management of the sand dune soils to retain sediment supply.

Where necessary consider changes in management which will aid the stabilisation of the soils.

Principal services offered by opportunities

  • Regulating soil quality
  • Food provision
  • Biodiversity
  • Regulating water quality
  • Regulating water flow

Regulating soil erosion

Assets/attributes: main contributors to service –

  • Loamy and clayey soils of coastal flats with naturally high groundwater
  • Sand dune soils
  • Slowly permeable seasonally wet slightly acid but base- rich loamy and clayey soils
  • Slightly acid loamy and clayey soils with impeded drainage

State – Soil erosion risk varies across the NCA although the majority of soil types (with the exception of sand dune soils) are considered to have a low risk of erosion and the predominantly low lying flat land also helps limit erosion risk. However, the slightly acid loamy/clayey soils can be prone to compaction and capping/ slaking, if accessed when wet, leading to an increased risk of soil erosion by surface water run-off.

The River Rother and Walland Marsh form part of a Defra priority catchment due in part to sediment run-off from agricultural land affecting the area’s rivers.

Main beneficiary – Regional

Analysis – Where soils have clay sub-surface layers they tend to have poor water infiltration with potential for water run-off. The complex network of drains surrounding farmland means there is a risk of diffuse pollution from poor infiltration and run- off into the water network.

Opportunities – Work with land managers to minimise/reduce negative impacts of soil structural deterioration by careful planning of cultivations/machinery use, sensitive grazing to avoid compaction, poaching or puddling soils.

Principal services offered by opportunities

  • Regulating soil erosion
  • Regulating soil quality
  • Climate regulation
  • Regulating water quality
  • Regulating water flow

Pollination

Assets/attributes: main contributors to service –

  • Semi-natural habitats
  • Pastoral farmland
  • Edge habitats particularly arable field margins and ditch corridors

State – There has been a decline in semi-natural habitats and the change in agricultural production systems has reduced the area of nectar sources for pollinating insects, with a significant decline in pollinator numbers over the last 30 years. Remaining areas of semi natural habitats within the NCA are important as nectar sources.

The short-haired bumblebee re-introduction to the UK has taken place in Dungeness and Romney Marsh. The creation of flower-rich habitat has been an essential element of the re- introduction.

Main beneficiary – National

Analysis – Pollinator services are important in this NCA given the mixed farmed landscape and production of insect dependent crops.

Grazing marsh and other grassland, arable field margins and ditch edges can all provide valuable nectar sources for pollinating insects, especially where increased sward diversity is encouraged.

The re-introduction program of the short-haired bumblebee is important for pollination not only within the NCA but across England, as the bumblebees pollinate many important agricultural crops which are critical to sustaining our farming economy in the longer term.

The project has encouraged improvements to surrounding farmland including the creation of about 900 ha of nectar- and flower-rich margins to support the bumblebee reintroduction. A welcome result has been the return of other bumblebee species to the area.

Opportunities – Protect, expand and improve the condition of areas of flower- rich habitat in the pastoral and arable landscape, increasing the availability of nectar sources. In particular support ongoing initiatives such as the short-haired bumblebee re- introduction which encourage landowners in creating important corridors and habitat mosaics of flower-rich habitat for pollinator species.

Seek opportunities to raise the profile of pollinators through public education and outreach.

Principal services offered by opportunities

  • Pollination
  • Food provision
  • Biodiversity
  • Sense of place/inspiration

Pest regulation

Assets/attributes: main contributors to service –

  • Existing semi-natural habitats
  • Agricultural field margins

State – The mixed farming nature of the area and semi-natural habitats will help to support species that will aid pest regulation.

Main beneficiary – Local

Analysis – Increasing the diversity in species and structure of field margins will increase the ability of these areas to support populations of pest-regulating species such as invertebrates, birds and mammals.

Improving the condition of, and expanding and linking areas of semi-natural habitat, will help to provide a network of habitats which support sustainable populations of pest-regulating species and enable them to move through the landscape. Achieving this may be limited by the high productivity of soils and economic losses of taking land out of production.

Opportunities – Explore opportunities to increase and appropriately manage semi-natural habitats to increase diversity of structure, including through the creation of field margins to encourage a network of habitats for pest- regulating species close to areas of agricultural production.

Principal services offered by opportunities

  • Pest regulation
  • Pollination
  • Biodiversity
  • Food production

Cultural Services

Sense of place/inspiration

Assets/attributes: main contributors to service –

  • Open, windswept low-lying reclaimed marshland with extensive ditch network
  • Dynamic and varied coastline
  • Largest cuspate foreland in Europe
  • Sand dunes
  • Coastal towns and maritime associations
  • River valleys of the Rother and Brede
  • Open uninterrupted panoramas
  • Romney Marsh sheep
  • Wintering, breeding and passage birds

State – Sense of place is provided by the reclaimed marshland, bounded to the south by the English Channel and to the north by upstanding old sea cliffs which contrast strongly with the largest shingle beaches in Europe at Dungeness and Rye and sand dunes at Camber Sands.

Centuries of drainage and improvement has led to this landscape remaining as an open area of predominantly large-scale arable fields with some smaller areas of wet pasture grazed by cattle and sheep. Traditional grazing marsh provides a vital link to the long tradition of sheep grazing on the marsh.

An irregular network of linear drainage dykes, canals, channels and banks with some areas of open water and marshland reinforce the area’s wetland character.

Wide skies and open, uninterrupted panoramas characterise the area, with limited tree or hedgerow cover add to the strong sense of exposure and openness.

In the west the High Weald AONB covers part of the NCA and includes the river valleys of the Rother and Brede and the Isle of Oxney – a testament to the natural beauty afforded to this area. A smaller area falls within the Kent Downs AONB in the east, associated with the Lympne escarpment.

The nature of the landscape has inspired writers such as H.G. Wells, Henry James, Rudyard Kipling and Joseph Conrad, who have either worked on the marshes or used them as the setting for their novels, as well as artists such as Paul Nash, the photographer Fay Godwin and film director Derek Jarman.

Main beneficiary – National

Analysis – The area has a strong sense of place and identity with dispersed settlements, many with churches at their heart and local vernacular adding to the distinctiveness of the area.

The area continues to be a tourist and visitor destination and inspiration to artists, writers and photographers who are drawn to the unique character of the area.

The last two centuries have seen significant changes in the landscape, with a shift from predominantly pasture to arable, the building of Dungeness Power Station, plus associated power lines, gravel extraction and expansion of holiday resorts along the coast.

These activities have had an impact on the habitats of the NCA and continue to exert pressures on the landscape and its sense of place.

Opportunities – Maintain the farmed character of the landscape, especially the extensive ditch network, remaining areas of grazing marsh and the many traditions associated with a long history of sheep grazing.

Protect and enhance the dynamic coastline, with the distinctive shingle beaches and sand dunes.

Maintain the open landscape, dispersed historic settlement patterns and vernacular building styles and materials, protecting the rural character of the NCA from encroaching urban developments.

Expanding and relinking the wetland habitats of the Rother and Brede.

Explore opportunities to promote local products such as Romney sheep and Romney wool, especially where it strengthens the links between landscape character, sense of place and local produce.

Conserve the heritage assets of the NCA, including those associated with maritime and military history and support heritage and education programmes which identify and promote their contribution to sense of place.

Principal services offered by opportunities

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

Sense of history

Assets/attributes: main contributors to service –

  • Historic environment features
  • Historic drainage system
  • Grazing marsh
  • Romney Marsh breed of sheep
  • Looker’s huts Churches
  • Ancient towns of Winchelsea and Rye

State – There is a wealth of heritage assets that reflects the evolution of the landscape, most evident in the area’s history of piecemeal reclamation or ‘inning’ from coastal marshes. The present day shape of parish boundaries reflects the fact that parishes outside this area extended their boundaries to include the sheep fattening pastures of the marshes.

Small isolated settlements are located on pockets of higher ground. Local vernacular creates a distinctive architectural character and includes the use of white painted weatherboard and hung tiles, while fine medieval churches are a feature of villages.

Two features which are relicts from the Napoleonic wars are the defensive Martello towers and the Royal Military Canal, a prominent waterway forming an arc from Fairlight to Folkestone, as well as more recent defences constructed during the Second World War. Other historic features include old sea walls, medieval settlement sites and a high number of churches lost due to tidal inundation.

Aspects of history likely to be most evident to the general public are the medieval churches, traditional vernacular and coastal defensive features, as well as Rye which is a well-known and well-visited landlocked harbour town and Winchelsea, both with strong historical associations.

The Romney breed of sheep is an important part of the NCA’s cultural heritage, although present day grazing by Romney Marsh sheep is much reduced in extent.

Main beneficiary – National

Analysis – The NCA has a long established farming tradition and remaining areas of traditional grazing marsh, looker’s huts and other relic features indicative of the past thriving sheep industry make an important contribution to sense of history. Changing agricultural markets and a move into more intensive arable from traditional grazing makes remaining pockets of historic landscape important for their contribution to sense of history and visible links to the past.

Measures to secure the condition of historic features will help maintain a sense of history, in addition interpreting these assets in a context which links them with the surrounding historical landscape will have wider benefits for sense of place and support other services such as recreation.

Some historical assets may be at risk from sea level rise and coastal change.

The ancient towns of Winchelsea and Rye abound with heritage features and are popular visitor destinations. They help tell the story of the evolution of the NCA, from invasions and wars, silting up of ports, coastal flooding, trade, fishing and smuggling. These towns provide a wealth of information on the history of the area and the impacts of coastal change.

The Romney Breed of sheep is less prevalent on the marsh than it once was with continental and cross breeds now chosen as the more commercially viable form of livestock. However, the Romney sheep breed is of genetic heritage value and has had a strong bearing on the development of the marsh.

Opportunities – Seek opportunities to protect, manage and enhance historic features and their settings, particularly in relation to land management and land use changes.

There are opportunities to provide interpretation and educational information to develop wider public understanding of the heritage assets and what they represent, particularly their association with the development of the landscape; this will help enhance public engagement, enjoyment and understanding.

Opportunities should be sought to interpret heritage features which are at risk from coastal change.

Retain links with the NCA and the Romney Breed of sheep, exploring opportunities for promotion of the cultural and heritage links that the breed has with the NCA.

Principal services offered by opportunities

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

Tranquility

Assets/attributes: main contributors to service –

  • Rural marsh landscape
  • Dispersed, mainly small settlements
  • Undeveloped coastline

State – According to the CPRE map of tranquillity the Romney Marshes is one of the most tranquil areas in Kent. The largest areas of tranquillity lie away from the main transport corridors (A 259, A2070, A268 and A28) and major settlements including Rye and settlements along the coastline such as St Mary’s Bay, Littlestone-on-Sea, Greatstone-on- Sea and Lydd-on-Sea.

A sense of tranquillity is likely to be particularly associated with the remote areas of grazing marsh and the expansive open skylines that are a distinctive feature of the area, as well as pockets along the undeveloped coastal zone.

However tranquillity levels have declined significantly in recent years, with ‘undisturbed’ areas having decreased from 93 percent in the 1960s to 55 percent in 2007.

Main beneficiary – Regional

Analysis – Although there has been a reduction in tranquillity levels, compared to surrounding NCAs, this area may be considered relatively tranquil, likely to reflect the predominantly rural character of the NCA and its location.

Tranquillity of the area may be compromised in future by new developments, tourism, recreation commercial interests and new infrastructure.

Opportunities – Seek opportunities to conserve the sense of remoteness and areas of tranquillity within the NCA, maintaining the predominantly rural, distinctive open character and areas of undeveloped coastline, protecting the NCA from inappropriate development.

Work in partnership to find solutions to issues arising from recreational activities which cause disturbance in tranquil areas, seeking to manage visitor pressures and encourage a reduction in car dependency to help maintain and enhance tranquillity and reduce traffic volumes, particularly on the small roads leading to Dungeness.

Principal services offered by opportunities

  • Tranquillity
  • Sense of place/inspiration
  • Sense of history
  • Recreation

Recreation

Assets/attributes: main contributors to service –

  • Public rights of way network
  • Promoted paths and routes
  • Rye and other coastal towns, beaches and amenities

State – Recreation is supported by the area’s 567 km rights of way network (with a density of 1.5 km per km²), including the Saxon Shore Way, Sussex Border Path and Royal Military Canal Path, with virtually no areas of open access land (under 1 ha). Access provision will be further enhanced by the addition of the England Coast Path.

Several caravan parks and camp sites occur along the coast and beside the marshes with extensive recreation and tourism developments at Camber Sands.

Flooded gravel pits from gravel extraction have provided watersports opportunities.

The coast offers a range of recreational opportunities including fishing, walking, water-based sports and bird watching.

Nature reserves offer places for quiet enjoyment, wildlife watching and for education of the area’s biodiversity, landscape and geodiversity.

Rye is a major tourist attraction, with its strong maritime and military history and harbour.

The Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch steam railway is claimed to be the world’s smallest railway and runs from Hythe to Dungeness Point, an important recreational asset, popular among holidaymakers.

Coastal towns and beaches provide recreational opportunities for locals and visitors.

Main beneficiary – Regional

Analysis – There is a need to ensure that the distribution and management of visitors is sustainable, conserves and enhances the area, including the biodiversity assets while improving visitor experience, bringing about added benefits for health and wellbeing.

Recreational disturbance is a significant issue on the vulnerable shingle habitats. These are highly susceptible to long- term damage from a range of activities, some linked to recreational activities such as boat mooring, trampling and inappropriate vehicular access. Promotion and enhancement of the recreational assets within the wider NCA may help to alleviate pressure on the sensitive coastal habitats by managing dispersal of activities across the area.

Tourism is important in the area and opportunities could be developed to enhance people’s connection with the landscape and its history, to encourage a valuing of their surroundings.

Future provision of coastal access will need to be implemented sympathetically to avoid potential conflicts with the internationally designated nature conservation sites.

Cycle and walking routes have been promoted across the marsh through a series of publications; there is scope to build on these existing resources.

Recreational activities along the coast may have an impact on vulnerable habitats if not sustainable and undertaken in the right areas or with due concern for the vulnerable habitats.

Opportunities – Seek opportunities to improve sustainable access throughout the NCA, enhancing existing routes and developing multi-user paths.

Sensitive interpretation may help to provide increased understanding and enjoyment for all.

Ensure access balances recreational enjoyment with the protection of biodiversity, geodiversity and the historic environment. In particular increase awareness, understanding and education to inform both residents and visitors of the vulnerability of the coastal sites, particularly the shingle habitat to reduce the impacts of disturbance, particularly from inappropriate or unconsented recreational activities.

Manage the natural and built assets of the NCA which draw people to the area, to ensure that they are protected and not over-exploited while still being accessible to the public.

Develop opportunities to work in partnership and with local businesses in support of initiatives that help support sustainable tourism, recognising the value to the local economy that recreational visitors bring to the NCA.

Principal services offered by opportunities

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

Biodiversity

Assets/attributes: main contributors to service –

  • Internationally designated sites, nationally designated SSSI, National Nature Reserve, local sites and other nature reserves
  • Semi-natural habitats
  • Arable habitats supporting farmland birds

State – This NCA has over 12,800 ha of priority habitats, covering 35 percent of the area. This includes significant areas of reedbeds, coastal and flood plain grazing marsh, coastal vegetated shingle, and sand dunes.

The area contains Dungeness SAC covering 2,487 ha as well as Dungeness to Pett Level SPA (currently 1,276 ha but with a proposed SPA of 4,084 ha in progress), while around 8,000 ha (22 percent of the NCA) is designated as SSSI. The NCA also has a proposed Ramsar covering 6,416 ha).

The majority of SSSI are currently in favourable or unfavourable recovering condition.

The NCA is significant for its diversity of species, many of principal importance. These include nationally rare and scarce vascular plant species, nationally important numbers of breeding, wintering and passage birds, lichens, bryophytes, invertebrates and mammals, including notably populations of water vole.

Main beneficiary – International

Analysis – The combination of geology, climate and proximity to continental Europe has all had a bearing on the rich mosaic of habitats, which support many rare and internationally important wildlife species.

Human influence, through changes in agriculture, commercial and recreational activities puts pressure on the biodiversity assets of the NCA, particularly the shingle habitat which is highly vulnerable to disturbance.

The coastal habitats may be at risk due to the effect of climate change and associated changes in sea level rise, leading to coastal squeeze and also increased saline intrusion to freshwater systems. It will be important to implement measures which ensure the maintenance and enhancement of biodiversity and adaptation to change.

Improving connectivity and permeability of the landscape for species movements will help to facilitate migration /adaptation.

Invasive non-native species pose a particular threat in this NCA, given the nature of the interlinked and extensive ditch network where non -native species may easily spread relatively unimpeded.

Opportunities – Maintain and enhance the extent and quality of semi-natural habitats, including shingle beaches, sand dunes, salt marsh, grazing marsh and waterbodies.

Designated sites should be managed and maintained in favourable condition, with buffering, extension and linking of core sites, in line with Biodiversity 2020 principles.

Enhance connectivity of the habitats within the NCA extending outwards, particularly along the river corridors of the Rother and Brede valleys, the open water network and along the coastal zone.

Seek opportunities to protect, enhance, buffer and connect surviving areas of flood plain grazing marsh and reedbeds, benefiting biodiversity, sense of place and history.

Work with landowners to integrate sustainable land management options into the farmed landscape, particularly for the benefit of farmland birds, to protect the interest of the extensive ditch network, and to encourage pollinator habitats, benefiting biodiversity and pollination services.

Principal services offered by opportunities

  • Biodiversity
  • Food provision
  • Regulating water quality
  • Regulating water flow
  • Regulating coastal erosion and flooding
  • Pollination
  • Climate regulation
  • Geodiversity

Geodiversity

Assets/attributes: main contributors to service –

  • Cuspate foreland (ness) development
  • Exposed and buried shingle ridges
  • Eroding and accreting coastline
  • Natural freshwater pits among extensive shingle ridges
  • Sand dune systems
  • Geological SSSI
  • Eroding cliffs

State – The geomorphology of the NCA is of international importance. Dungeness and Rye Harbour comprise the largest cuspate foreland in Europe. Coastal processes have formed and continue to shape a barrier of extensive shingle beaches and sand dunes across an area of intertidal mud and sand. The cuspate foreland represents around 5,000 years of coastal evolution and environmental change.

The geomorphology of natural freshwater pits among extensive shingle ridges is unique in the British Isles and probably also in Europe.

The area includes sand dune systems (Camber, Romney Warren and Greatstone) which represent different structural types of sand dune and sand dune formation.

Within this NCA, there are four geological and mixed interest SSSI including the geomorphological SSSI of Dungeness. The other three sites are of national and international importance for their Cretaceous deposits and fossils.

Main beneficiary – International

Analysis – The geodiversity of the NCA is of international importance for research and education. The geomorphology of the shingle beaches continues to be actively researched, the varied soils and shingle deposits help to explain the way in which Romney Marshes and Rye Bay were formed and how they may evolve in the future.

The cultural significance of the geodiversity is particularly high, with the shingle habitats contributing towards sense of place and history and the shingle and alluvial deposits have
created the landscape of the NCA.

The continuing evolution of the shingle cuspate foreland is of great geomorphological interest. The site is responding to a variety of influences including the reduction in sediment supply, coastal defence works, shingle recycling, training walls at Rye Harbour and sea level rise, however despite these influences the site continues to evolve. Understanding this ongoing evolution, including comparison with historic changes and the influence of human activity, is of interest to many.

The site is one of a suite of five south-west facing beach systems along the coast of the English Channel, which all show contrasting characteristics in relation to sediment supply, erosion and orientation to the dominant wave action.

The presence of palaeo-environmental information from shingle deposits allows for detailed interpretation of the environmental conditions at the time of deposition and dating allows for chronology of coastal evolution to be developed.

Eroding sea cliffs give the furthest south-easterly exposures of the Lower Hastings Beds Group as a classic type section. This stretch of coast is of national and international importance for reference and has great potential for research, falling within the Hastings Cliff to Pett Beach SSSI.

Some of the geological sites are at risk from scrub encroachment and vegetation, which obscures exposures. These sites need to be effectively managed to maintain or achieve favourable condition.

Opportunities – Ensure the importance of the coast’s geology and geomorphology are presented to residents and visitors, to further their understanding of the landscape and to limit damaging activities which may affect the geomorphology of the coastal habitats, particularly the shingle beaches and sand dunes. In particular seek opportunities for interpretive material which looks at the interactions of geology with soils, land use, biodiversity and the role of geodiversity in the development of landscape character.

Maintain natural geomorphological processes, contributing to the regulation of coastal erosion and flooding.

Manage commercial operations including gravel extraction and recreational activities, especially where they threaten the geodiversity interest of the NCA.

Promote and celebrate the importance of this NCA in the development of geomorphological principles.

Manage geological sites appropriately, implementing measures to ensure that vegetation does not encroach on and obscure exposures, maintaining the integrity of sites.

Principal services offered by opportunities

  • Geodiversity
  • Biodiversity
  • Sense of place/inspiration