National Character Area 106

Severn and Avon Vales - Summary and Headline Statements of Environmental Opportunity

Summary

The lower valleys of the rivers Severn and Avon dominate this low-lying open agricultural vale landscape made up of distinct and contrasting vales, including Evesham, Berkeley, Gloucester, Leadon, and Avon, with Cotswold outliers like Bredon Hill punctuating the otherwise flat vale landscape. The M5 motorway runs through the centre and the eastern edge of the area. A small proportion of the National Character Area (NCA) is urban and includes towns such as Worcester, Cheltenham, Gloucester and Stratford-upon-Avon, with its world famous Shakespearian connections. Industrial development is still important at Avonmouth and the archaeology/heritage of former industry is prominent around Sharpness Docks, Pill, Gloucester-Sharpness Canal and Stroudwater Canal. The majority of the area is used as agricultural land.

Woodland is sparse and it is a generally open landscape. Traditional orchards are widespread across the area and with surrounding NCAs support the main UK population of the noble chafer beetle and provide an important genetic resource of local fruit varieties. Important concentrations of lowland meadow and floodplain grazing marsh support a range of priority species from green winged orchid and brown hairstreak butterfly to true fox sedge and a wide range of waterfowl. The Walmore Common Special Protection Area (SPA) and adjacent Severn Estuary SPA are of international importance for wintering wildfowl, such as Bewick’s swan and shelduck.

The oolitic limestone outliers of the Cotswolds AONB overlie this area and the Bredon Hill SAC is particularly important as a site for the rare violet click beetle. There are important staircases of fossil-bearing river terrace gravels containing evidence of Palaeolithic and Mesolithic human settlement, and rare inland salt deposits at Droitwich. Key ecosystem services within this NCA include flood regulation, food production due to extensive agriculture and sense of history which is internationally important due to its links with Shakespeare. Future challenges and opportunities include pressure from development around urban and industrial areas, pressure to increase food production and large scale wetland habitat restoration to aid flood management.

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 manage the landscape, heritage and biodiversity associated with the Severn Estuary, the river valleys and other hydrological features, planning for a landscape scale expansion of wetlands, intertidal habitats and unimproved grasslands along river floodplains through, restoration, expansion and re-linkage of existing remnant areas of seminatural habitat.

SEO 2

Seek to safeguard and enhance this area’s distinctive patterns of field boundaries, ancient hedgerows, settlements, orchards, parkland, small woodlands, chases, commons and floodplain management with their strong links to past land use and settlement history, and for the benefits this will bring to soil erosion, soil quality and biodiversity.

SEO 3

Reinforce the existing landscape structure as part of any identified growth of urban areas, hard infrastructure and other settlements ensuring quality green infrastructure is incorporated enhancing health, access, recreation, landscape, biodiversity and geodiversity.

SEO 4

Protect geological exposures and maintain, restore and expand semi natural habitats throughout the agricultural landscape, linking them together to create a coherent and resilient habitat network enabling ecosystems to adapt to climate change.