National Character Area 104

South Herefordshire and Over Severn - Detailed Statements of Environmental Opportunity

This section expands on the Headline Statements of Environmental Opportunity and provides further detail on each of the Statements of Environmental Opportunity.


SEO 1: Protect and manage the woodland, parkland, traditional orchards and hedgerows with hedgerow trees that contribute to the well-wooded feel of the landscape, securing the new generation of replacement trees. Expand and restore the currently much-fragmented semi-natural habitats across the National Character Area (NCA) to enhance the ability of species to move across the landscape, enabling some resilience to climate change, and benefiting soil quality and water quality and reducing soil erosion.

For example by:

  • Bringing existing woodlands (especially ancient woodlands) and tree groups into active management where appropriate, particularly in the Garway Hills and lowlands, Woolhope Dome and Over Severn.
  • Conserving and managing the distinctive clumps of trees found on the May Hill summit and the small areas of parkland-style planting around farmhouses.
  • Managing and planning for a continuous resource of mature and veteran trees at wood pasture and parkland sites, replanting where appropriate, so that important invertebrate populations, lichen communities and fungi can be conserved and valued historic landscape features can be retained.
  • Bringing traditional orchards into active management and seeking to extend the area of traditional orchards to ensure a continuity of deadwood and rot holes and increase the variability of age structure of orchard trees; retaining orchards for their deadwood habitat value and where possible improving the condition of the underlying grassland to enhance the lowland meadow resource.
  • Encouraging regeneration and planting of local orchard fruit varieties, raising awareness of them and linking owners with suppliers.
  • Restoring or maintaining traditional orchard buildings such as cider houses and field barns which contribute to the history and cultural associations of orchards across this and neighbouring orchard-rich areas.
  • Managing and restoring species-rich hedgerows, particularly in areas where hedgerow decline has been most marked, to benefit species and contribute to the reduction of soil erosion, improving soil and water quality. In the Garway Hills and May Hill area encourage tall, thick hedgerows, particularly in areas of common land, manage mature hedgerow trees and restore viable hedgerow tree populations, reflecting characteristic patterns and species composition.
  • Managing, monitoring and, where appropriate, controlling diseases, pests and other threats which may cause substantial mortality in tree species and woodland habitats, and seeking to mitigate the landscape impact of any loss.
  • Managing existing areas of semi-natural grassland and riverside meadows, particularly along the river valley flood plains of the Monnow, Wye and Leadon. Encouraging the creation of semi-natural grassland and riverside meadows, particularly where they may link existing grassland areas, notably in the Garway Hills, Woolhope Dome, Over Severn daffodil areas and May Hill area, benefiting both the ecology and ecosystem services such as water and soil quality and water regulation (through increased infiltration) and reducing soil erosion.
  • Using local traditional breeds of livestock such as Hereford cattle, where appropriate, for conservation grazing, maintaining a genetic resource in the county of origin.


SEO 2: Sustainably manage the productive agricultural landscape, enhancing food provision and increasing permeability to the movement of species. Manage in such a way as to preserve and enhance soil condition and water quality and reduce soil erosion, particularly in relation to the River Wye Special Area of Conservation.

For example by:

  • Working with the local farming community to improve and expand sustainable food production as appropriate, and safeguard future food production while enhancing key ecosystem services such as biodiversity, water quality, water regulation (flooding), soil erosion and quality, pollination services and genetic diversity.
  • Developing stronger branding for locally produced food, and encouraging the purchasing of local produce to benefit the local economy, climate regulation and local culture, thus maintaining and strengthening farming and its associated cultural landscapes and the wildlife that it supports.
  • Maintaining and increasing farmland bird populations through the use of appropriate agri-environment options.
  • Encouraging the protection of areas of ridge and furrow and other historic earthworks, particularly in Leadon Vale, through appropriate management.
  • Reducing sources of diffuse pollution in the rivers Wye and Leadon catchment sensitive farming target areas by promoting soil and nutrient management planning and improved pesticide practice, plus capital grants works that facilitate dirty water separation and alleviate soil run-off.
  • Encouraging well-designed winter water storage reservoirs on farms to help to alleviate the levels of abstraction for water used on farmland during dry periods.
  • Restoring hedgerow boundaries and creating buffer strips to intercept soil run-off on slopes.
  • Maintaining and expanding the network of semi-natural habitats adjacent to watercourses to act as a buffer against diffuse pollution.
  • Creating grassland buffer strips within arable farming systems and adjacent to watercourses to intercept soil run-off pesticides and nutrients and reduce the volumes entering directly into river systems.
  • Supporting measures which employ minimal tillage and increase organic matter incorporation into the soil to improve soil structure and conditions for soil fauna, increase water infiltration and also relieve soil compaction on a landscape scale.
  • Working with the farming community to achieve appropriate stocking regimes which avoid poaching and reduce erosion.
  • Encouraging the use of nectar and forage mixes, field margins, beetle banks and headlands in arable land, to encourage species which will benefit crop productivity through pollination and pest control and to enhance the permeability of the arable landscape to all species.


SEO 3: Maintain and enhance the many historic features and characteristic settlement pattern of rural hamlets, isolated farmsteads and small villages and towns using local materials. Preserve the tranquil rural character of the area, protecting and promoting the biodiversity, geodiversity, access, recreation and heritage of the area.

For example by:

  • Ensuring the appropriate use of local materials, vernacular styles and protection of the area’s historic settlement pattern, including through the small-scale development of its small hamlets, and conserving traditional farm buildings through continued and new uses with local materials and techniques.
  • Encouraging the sympathetic use of important buildings in the landscape, including through conversion where appropriate. Ensuring that any development and infrastructure within the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) is in keeping with the aims of the AONB designation and encouraging that existing and new power and telephone cables should be placed underground to minimise visual impact, particularly within the AONB.
  • Protecting the historical features of the area that reflect the continuity of human occupation, such as Norman castles, remnants of Roman activity and iron-age forts and earthworks.
  • Encouraging the use of best practice cultivation and agricultural methods to ensure the preservation of buried archaeological remains and above-ground earthworks, recognising also the high potential in this area for new discoveries.
  • Managing and restoring field boundaries including hedgerows, hedgerow trees and drainage ditches in keeping with local styles and management traditions.
  • Encouraging the management of fragments of characteristic commons, sometimes at the heart of villages, through appropriate grazing regimes and scrub clearance, particularly around the villages and hamlets in the Garway Hills, Woolhope and May Hill area. Encourage management to support ecological links between the commons on the Woolhope Dome and those close-by in the adjacent Herefordshire Lowlands NCA to the north.
  • Support parish councils to sustainably manage verges, encouraging wild flowers, acting as wildlife corridors to increase permeability of the landscape to wildlife and enhancing sense of place.
  • Ensuring that levels of signage on roads and trails are appropriate for the rural setting, particularly within the AONB.
  • Protecting and maintaining rock exposures and encouraging access agreements to key geodiversity sites, such as work to restore good condition of overgrown and endangered geological Sites of Special Scientific Interest, for example Linton Quarry. Improve access to cuttings, quarries and other geological glacial and fluvial features by improving footpaths and providing signage and interpretation.
  • Promoting awareness of the Local Geological Sites, many of which have been important in the development of geology as a science, especially those on the Woolhope Dome.
  • Raising awareness of the importance of Local Sites (biological and geological) to heritage and to the unique habitats that they provide.
  • Maintaining the availability of local stone for building restoration through small sustainably managed local quarries.
  • Identifying and realising opportunities to enhance the setting, interpretation and legibility of historic features including buildings and earthworks, and their wider settings, to increase the understanding of = the importance of historic land use in shaping the current landscape.
  • Promoting recreation and access for its health benefits, sense of wellbeing and connection with the landscape, sustainably managing access, recreational and educational opportunities, particularly in the more actively used areas of the Wye Valley.
  • Continuing to develop and implement the Rights of Way Improvement Plan for Herefordshire and for Gloucestershire, encouraging the use, interpretation and maintenance of the National Cycle Network routes, long-distance footpaths including the Herefordshire Trail, Gloucestershire Way and Wye Valley Walk, and other public footpaths and rights of access within the NCA.
  • Ensuring that paths are well marked and maintained and that key features, wildlife and points of interest are highlighted. Ensure that some surfaced paths are provided to enable easy access walks.


SEO 4: Protect and enhance the rivers Wye, Leadon and Monnow and their tributaries for their internationally important biodiversity associated with the River Wye Special Area of Conservation, their contribution to landscape, the ecological network, and sense of place and inspiration, and for the regulating services that they provide including water flow, water quality and water availability.

For example by:

  • Ensuring that fish passes are installed where required, enabling the natural migration of fish to upstream spawning grounds.
  • Retaining, restoring and extending bankside vegetation and wet meadows to reduce soil erosion and improve water quality.
  • Creating grassland buffer strips and maintaining hedgerows on arable land running across slopes to reduce soil erosion and nutrient run-off.
  • Maintaining woodland cover which provides integrated benefits to soil quality, water flow and water quality and reduces soil erosion.
  • Ensuring that good livestock husbandry prevails across the landscape to minimise soil compaction, soil erosion and diffuse pollution.
  • Controlling non-native invasive species in this and NCAs further up the catchment as part of a co-ordinated approach with upstream NCAs, especially Himalayan balsam which results in exposed unvegetated river banks during the winter, thereby exacerbating erosion.
  • Providing educational and recreational opportunities that improve understanding and appreciation of the special qualities of the River Wye’s habitats and geology.
  • Sustainably managing and monitoring the watersports and other recreational impacts on the river environment.

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