National Character Area 104

South Herefordshire and Over Severn - Key Facts & Data

Landscape and nature conservation designations section contains a map

Note that numbers and figures in the body of the text are based on the 2014 profiles, unless otherwise stated. The maps contain live frequently updated datasets.

The Wye Valley (12,836 ha) and Malvern Hills (295 ha) Areas of Outstanding Beauty (AONB) fall within the South Herefordshire and Over Severn NCA (Natural England, 2011).

Designated nature conservation sites

The NCA includes the following statutory nature conservation designations (Natural England, Special Protection Areas; Special Area of Conservation; Ramsars; National Nature Reserves; Sites of Special Scientific Interest and Local Nature Reserves, 2021):

Please note: (i) Designated areas may overlap (ii) all figures are cut to Mean High Water Line, designations that span coastal/marine areas below this line will not be included.

Condition of designated sites
All designated sites within England are covered by Sites of Scientific Interest (SSSI) units. The condition to these SSSI units within the NCA are as follows (Natural England, Sites of Special Scientific Interest Units, 2021):



Landscape and nature conservation designations map for NCA104

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Landform, geology and soils section contains a map

Note that numbers and figures in the body of the text are based on the 2014 profiles, unless otherwise stated. The maps contain live frequently updated datasets.

Elevation

The lowest elevation in this NCA is 18 m; the highest point is 361 m. The mean elevation across the NCA is 99m (Natural England, 2010).

Landform and process

The landscape directly reflects the underlying rock structure with higher land where there are harder more resistant rocks. There are three distinct landscape typologies derived from the underlying geological structure; Woolhope Dome and Over Severn, Lower Wye and The Garway Hills. At Woolhope Dome a radial pattern of drainage developed on the dome, but the streams have preferentially chosen to erode their valleys on the softer shale bands.

Around the edges of the Woolhope Dome, there exists steeply dipping limestones with thin bands of bentonite clay. Groundwater seepage lubricates these bands and landslips occur such as ‘The Wonder’ near Much Marcle and ‘Dormington Slip’ near Perton Quarry, which itself has also been affected by a landslip. Within the Woolhope and Over Severn area, there are three rather different landforms; the Woolhope Domes, the hills and vales landscape around Newent and the lower, more rolling landscape around Dymock.

The Lower Wye includes some large amplitude meanders of the River Wye and the valley profile changes as it passes from one underlying rock type to another. The landscape tends to be of an undulating nature within the Lower Wye area.

Rivers are depositing alluvium on the valley floors in times of flood at the present day.

The Garway Hills in the NCA abut the Welsh Border on their south western edge, rising out of the Lower Wye landscape to the east and the Herefordshire Lowlands to the north. The smooth, flowing landforms produce a rolling countryside, which contrasts with the dramatic and irregular topography of the Welsh landscape to the south-west (South Herefordshire and Over Severn Countryside Character Area Description).

Bedrock geology

The overall landscape is dominated by Raglan Mudstone Formation (Silurian), St Maughans Formation and Brownstones Formation (Lower Devonian). These are collectively known as Old Red Sandstone. At Woolhope and Over Severn, upfolded Silurian limestones, shaley mudstone and siltstone form the Woolhope Dome. Erosion of the domed upfold has exposed a succession of different rocks. The oldest rocks are the Llandovery May Hill Sandstone Group (Lower Silurian). These are the sandstones of the Haugh Wood Formation which outcrops in the centre of the Woolhope Dome. The Wye Valley is separated from the hilly land of the Woolhope Dome to the east by the line of the Woolhope Fault, which runs from north north-west to south south-east. The viewpoint at Capler is on the east side of the fault with spectacular views from the high land over the valley below to the south-west. In the Newent area, there are Coal Measures deposits (Geological Narrative West Midlands Geodiversity Partnership, South Herefordshire and Over Severn Countryside Character Area Description).

Superficial deposits

Along the River Wye there are a series of remnants of river terrace deposits, usually on the inside of meander bends. These are formed of gravels transported by meltwater during the last interglacial period and show the former higher levels of the valley floor. At Holme Lacy there are remnants of the highest and oldest of the river terraces, the Fourth Terrace Deposits of the River Lugg and Proto Wye. In the Huntsham Bridge area, the valley widens out as the river emerges from the narrow gorge cut in the harder rocks of the Forest of Dean Plateau. Here are river terrace deposits inside a large meander bend. Rivers are depositing alluvium on the valley floors in times of flood at the present day. Red soils are characteristic of the ‘Old Red Sandstone’. The St Maughans Formation and Brownstones Formation rocks in this area are Lower Devonian in age (Geological Narrative West Midlands Geodiversity Partnership, South Herefordshire and Over Severn Countryside Character Area Description).

Designated geological sites

The NCA includes the following geological sites (Natural England, Geological and Mixed Sites of Special Scientific Interest, 2021):

wdt_IDNCA_IDNAMENCAAreaHaInterest typeArea (ha) 2021Percent of NCA (2021)Count
2361NORTH NORTHUMBERLAND COASTAL PLAIN37,669.6Geological6.80.01
2371NORTH NORTHUMBERLAND COASTAL PLAIN37,669.6Mixed1,029.52.75
2382NORTHUMBERLAND SANDSTONE HILLS72,694.6Geological45.40.14
2393CHEVIOT FRINGE51,591.3Geological17.10.02
2404CHEVIOTS36,487.9Geological165.00.52
2414CHEVIOTS36,487.9Mixed3,488.99.61
2425BORDER MOORS AND FORESTS127,155.9Geological85.70.18
2435BORDER MOORS AND FORESTS127,155.9Mixed35.80.01
2446SOLWAY BASIN98,350.4Geological7.20.02
2456SOLWAY BASIN98,350.4Mixed5,569.25.74

Soils and Agriculture Classification

To the east and south, the Siluro-Devonian sandstones, marls and conglomerates of the Lower Old Red Sandstone give distinctive red soils, very different from the grey Silurian soils of Woolhope Dome. The Old Red Sandstone forms soil of high agricultural quality augmented by alluvium (Geological Narrative West Midlands Geodiversity Partnership, South Herefordshire and Over Severn Countryside Character Area Description).

The main grades of agricultural land in the NCA are broken down as follows (as a proportion of total land area) (Natural England, Provisional Agricultural Land Classification, 2019):


Landform, geology and soils map for NCA104

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Key waterbodies and catchments section contains a map

Note that numbers and figures in the body of the text are based on the 2014 profiles, unless otherwise stated. The maps contain live frequently updated datasets.

Major rivers/canals

The following major rivers/canals (by length) have been identified in this NCA (Natural England, data informing the 2014 National Character Area Profiles, 2010):

wdt_IDREF_CODENAME_1NameLength (km)SumOfShape_Length
11NORTH NORTHUMBERLAND COASTAL PLAINRiver Aln7.67,587.2
21NORTH NORTHUMBERLAND COASTAL PLAINRiver Coquet5.55,516.0
31NORTH NORTHUMBERLAND COASTAL PLAINWhiteadder Water2.92,904.9
410NORTH PENNINESBlack Burn11.911,853.4
510NORTH PENNINESCroglin Water10.010,042.3
610NORTH PENNINESCrowdundle Beck4.34,337.4
710NORTH PENNINESDevil's Water20.520,464.6
810NORTH PENNINESHarwood Beck9.79,740.2
910NORTH PENNINESRiver Allen4.94,889.0
1010NORTH PENNINESRiver Derwent15.315,268.4

Please note: other significant rivers (by volume) may also occur. Tidal stretches of rivers are not included, which may include some major rivers.

The Wye, with its wide incised meanders and prominent riverside slipoff slopes, drains southwards through the area. The principle river near Woolhope and Over Severn is the Leadon, draining south-eastwards towards the Severn, fed by a complex dentritic drainage pattern in the many valleys at its head. However, on the northern and western edge of the Dome, small streams drain radially to the Wye and Frome. Within the Garway Hills, the River Monnow flows along the south-western edge and short streams drain into it from the ridge that extends through Welsh Newton to Kentchurch. To the north-east, Garren Brook drains south-eastwards into the Wye, fed by numerous streams arising in the steep-sided valleys.

Water quality

Nitrate Vulnerable Zones (NVZs) are areas designated as being at risk from agricultural nitrate pollution. These can impact surface water (waterbodies and waterways located above ground) and groundwater (water bodies and waterways located below ground).

Waterbodies such as lakes can also be designated as “eutrophic waters” if the enrichment of the waterbody by nitrate pollution causes accelerated growth of algae, impacting the quality of the water and the balance of organisms within it.

The following NVZs are located within the NCA (Environment Agency, Nitrate Vulnerable Zones Designations, 2021):

Water framework directive

River basin management plans cover river basin districts and describe the challenges that threaten the water environment and how these challenges can be managed and funded. The plans include the classification of water quality of surface waters and ground waters.



Click on the Water Framework Directive layers on the below map to view the corresponding river names.

Key waterbodies and catchments map for NCA104

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Trees and woodlands section contains a map

Note that numbers and figures in the body of the text are based on the 2014 profiles, unless otherwise stated. The maps contain live frequently updated datasets.

Total woodland cover

Ancient woodland is any area that has been wooded continuously since at least 1600 AD. National Forest Inventory (NFI) woodland includes all forests and woodlands (0.5 hectares and over). The total woodland cover within the NCA is as follows (Natural England, Ancient Woodland, 2021; Forestry Commission, National Forest Inventory, 2020):

Distribution and size of woodland and trees in the landscape

In the Lower Wye area, woodland is confined almost entirely to the steep outer slopes of the river bends, while hedges are very variable. Some are lush and overgrown with large hedgerow trees. Many more are severely cut back. In other cases, only a scattered line of trees and individual shrubs survive. There are commercial bush orchards, but the older orchards, with much more varied range of trees, are found mainly at the edges of the hamlets and around the farm houses. The Woolhope Dome area has abundant woodland, such as the extensive Haugh Wood, which lies adjacent to the acidic Broadmoor Common at the very centre of the Dome, and much of it is coniferous. The enclosed valleys, such as that around Sollers Hope, also have a well-wooded appearance, not least from the small fields and overgrown hedges on the steeper slopes. Orchards are numerous, predominantly in the north and east of Woolhope, and were formally much more extensive. Well-wooded parks are a particular feature, including Repton’s Sufton Court, Stoke Edith and Brockhampton and the extensive parkland around the sheltered village of Woolhope (Dean Plateau and Wye Valley Natural Area Profile, South Herefordshire and Over Severn Countryside Character Area Description).

Woodland types

A statistical breakdown of the area and type of woodland found across the NCA is detailed below (Forestry Commission, National Forest Inventory, 2020):

Area and proportion of ancient woodland and planted ancient woodland sites (PAWS) within the NCA (Natural England, Ancient Woodland, 2021):


Trees and woodlands map for NCA104

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Boundary features and patterns

Note that numbers and figures in the body of the text are based on the 2014 profiles, unless otherwise stated.

Boundary features

Hedgerows are generally with some sparse trees (South Herefordshire and Over Severn Countryside Character Area Description; Countryside Quality Counts, 2003).

Field patterns

There is a predominant pattern of multi-period enclosures. This varies from large to medium fields, with variable, commonly low hedges which represent the end product of the continual process of assortment in the Saxon and
medieval periods, possibly earlier, with the subsequent rationalisation and boundary removal (South Herefordshire and Over Severn Countryside Character Area Descrip

Agriculture section contains a map

Note that numbers and figures in the body of the text are based on the 2014 profiles, unless otherwise stated. The maps contain live frequently updated datasets.

The following tables provide the most recently available statistics from Defra on agriculture within the NCA.

Farm type

The following farm types are located within this NCA (Defra, Structure of the agricultural industry in England and the UK at June, 2016):

Farm size

The following table outlines the sizes of farms within the NCA (Defra, Structure of the agricultural industry in England and the UK at June, 2021):

Farm ownership

The following table outlines the ownership of farms within the NCA (Defra, Structure of the agricultural industry in England and the UK at June, 2016):

Land use

The following table outlines the types of agricultural land use within the NCA (Defra, Structure of the agricultural industry in England and the UK at June, 2016):

Livestock numbers

The following livestock are farmed within the NCA (Defra, Structure of the agricultural industry in England and the UK at June, 2021):

Farm labour

The following table outlines the types of farm labour within the NCA (Defra, Structure of the agricultural industry in England and the UK at June, 2021):

Please note: (i) Some of the Census data are estimated by Defra so may not present a precise assessment of agriculture within this area (ii) Data refers to commercial holdings only (iii) Data includes land outside of the NCA where it belongs to holdings whose centre point is recorded as being within the NCA.



Note that the below map only shows agri-environment scheme coverage, and not other schemes.

Agriculture map for NCA104

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Key habitats and species section contains a map

Note that numbers and figures in the body of the text are based on the 2014 profiles, unless otherwise stated. The maps contain live frequently updated datasets.

Habitat distribution/coverage
Areas of semi-natural grassland are concentrated along the Woolhope Dome and the Over Severn. The Over Severn area supports many unimproved or semi improved neutral grasslands with abundant wild daffodils. The abundance of wild daffodils characterises the Over Severn part of the NCA. Areas of limestone grassland are concentrated on the Silurian Limestone around the Woolhope Dome. Remnants of heath are also still to be found on Woolhope Dome. Hedgerows of several hundred years in age are found throughout this NCA, in places such as Peterstow and Ballingham, they could even be a thousand years old based on very early monastic estate boundaries (Dean Plateau and Wye Valley Natural Area Profile).

Key Habitats

The NCA contains the following areas of key main habitats, as mapped by the national Priority Habitat Inventory (Natural England, Priority Habitats Inventory, 2021):






Key habitats and species map for NCA104

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Settlement and development patterns section contains a map

Note that numbers and figures in the body of the text are based on the 2014 profiles, unless otherwise stated. The maps contain live frequently updated datasets.

Settlement patterns

Ross-on-Wye is the principal settlement, dominated by the spire of St Mary’s Church, visible for miles along the valley. The remainder of the Ross, which is mainly 20th century housing, spreads northwards across the A40 to Blackfield and southwards to Tudorville with the built up and urban fringe character continuing across the river to Wilton. Outside of Ross, the main settlements are small hamlets and isolated farmsteads. 20th century development is limited in the Woolhope and Over Severn area. Modern housing is prominent on the edge of Newent. The rest of the area is characteristically farmsteads and hamlets (South Herefordshire and Over Severn Countryside Character Area Description; Countryside Quality Counts, 2003).

Main settlements

The main settlements within the NCA are Ross-on-Wye, Woolhope, Newent, King’s Thorn, Fownhope and Llangrove. The total estimated population for this NCA (derived from ONS 2001 census data) is 36,322 (South Herefordshire and Over Severn Countryside Character Area Description; Countryside Quality Counts, 2003).

Local vernacular and building materials

Within the Lower Wye area of the NCA, Ross-on-Wye is the principle settlement, with an attractive core of 18th and 19th century rendered buildings and market centre. The remainder of Ross is mainly 20th century housing. Outside Ross, sandstones of the Lower Old Red Sandstone predominate as building stones, even if they are in places rendered and whiteNowhed. There are many typical Herefordshire foursquare houses with hipped slate roofs and massive farmstead buildings with rugged faces of heavily weathered sandstone. Within Woolhope and Over Severn, the characteristic settlements of the area are farmsteads and hamlets commonly of brick, black and white timber framing and grey Silurian limestone (South Herefordshire and Over Severn Countryside Character Area Description; Countryside Quality Counts, 2003).

Settlement and development patterns map for NCA104

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Key historic sites and features section contains a map

Note that numbers and figures in the body of the text are based on the 2014 profiles, unless otherwise stated. The maps contain live frequently updated datasets.

Origin of historic features

There is little evidence that this area Now well-settled in the prehistoric and Romano-British period. Major market centres at Ross-on-Wye, Newent and Dymock developed from the late 11th century. There is a high concentration of motte and bailey castles (late 11th and 12th century) and moated sites (mostly 13th to 14th century). Medieval manorial centres characterised by grouping of a motte, church and later manor house (for example, Peterstow). The Welsh influence is strong to place names in the west of the NCA, with the Garway Hills area remaining part of the Welsh diocese of St David’s until the 19th century (Countryside Quality Counts Draft Historic Profile, Countryside Character Area Description).

Designated historic assets

The NCA includes the following designated historic assets (Historic England, National Heritage List for England, 2021):

Listed buildings

The NCA includes the following listed buildings (Historic England, National Heritage List for England, 2021):

Heritage at Risk Register

The NCA includes the following designated historic assets listed within the Heritage at Risk Register (Historic England, Heritage at Risk Register, 2023):



Key historic sites and features map for NCA104

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Recreation and access section contains a map

Note that numbers and figures in the body of the text are based on the 2014 profiles, unless otherwise stated. The maps contain live frequently updated datasets.

Public access

The following areas of public access for recreation are located within this NCA (Natural England, 2021; National Trust, 2021):


Please note: Public access areas may overlap.
The following linear routes or public access for recreation are located within this NCA (Natural England, 2021; Sustrans; 2021):

Recreation and access map for NCA104

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Experiential qualities

Note that numbers and figures in the body of the text are based on the 2014 profiles, unless otherwise stated.

Tranquillity

Based on the CPRE map of tranquillity (2006) undisturbed land lies around the less inhabited Garway Hills and Woolhope Dome. The largest areas of undisturbed land tend to be located in the north-east and south-west of the NCA and are divided by the A49 corridor. Large areas of disturbed land are found around the settlement of Ross on Wye and along the A40 and A49 corridors.

A breakdown of tranquillity values for this NCA are detailed in the table below (CPRE, Tranquillity Map, 2006):

Dark skies

Light pollution is a generic term referring to artificial light that shines where it is neither wanted nor needed, and can impact on people’s experience of the countryside within the NCAs. CPRE host an interactive map, depicting the light pollution and dark skies within the NCA.

Intrusion

The 2007 Intrusion Map (CPRE) shows the extent to which rural landscapes are ‘intruded on’ from urban development, noise (primarily traffic noise), and other sources of visual and auditory intrusion. This shows a corridor of disturbance along the route of the A50/M50.

A breakdown of intrusion values for this NCA is detailed in the table below (CPRE, Intrusion Map, 2007):

Notable trends from the 1960s to 2007 were a significant increase in the area of disturbed/intruded land by 30 per cent, matched by similar levels in decrease in the areas of undisturbed/un-intruded land by 31 per cent.