National Character Area 83

South Norfolk and High Suffolk - 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 South Norfolk and High Suffolk Claylands NCA contains 108 ha of the Broads National Park (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 NCA83

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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

Elevation in the NCA ranges from sea level to a high point of 77m. The mean elevation is 43m (Natural England, 2010).

Landform and process

The South Norfolk and High Suffolk Claylands form a large flat plateau with little relief except were incised by small river valleys flowing east to the North Sea. They are a relic of the Anglian glaciation, which swept over most of East Anglia, leaving a mantle of chalky boulder clay (glacial till), sand and gravel. Most of the glacial deposits were derived from a British ice-sheet which moved south across eastern England, eroding chalk and Jurassic clays along its path. In the north there is evidence for deposits derived from a Scandinavian ice-sheet; these are typically less chalky and include erratics of igneous rocks. The till presents a flat surface over wide areas and varies in thickness, being up to 75m thick on the high ground between Bury St Edmunds and Stowmarket. It gives rise to typical stagnogley soils which, while difficult to work when wet, are extremely fertile if drained. There is a strong contrast between the open plains of the clay plateau and the intimate small-scale valleys fringing the Suffolk Coast and Heaths to the east (South Norfolk and High Suffolk Claylands Countryside Character Area description).

Bedrock geology

The bedrock geology principally consists of a mixture of sand (53 per cent) and chalk (44 per cent). During the Anglian glaciation, around 450,000 years ago, ice sheets moving across the area deposited a layer of boulder clay up to tens of metres thick over the chalk. Fragments of chalk in the clay give a more or less calcicolous feel to the vegetation across the whole area. Pre-glacial river gravels under the clay are an important feature (South Norfolk and High Suffolk Claylands Countryside Character Area description, Natural England, 2010).

Superficial deposits

As the climate warmed and the ice melted, after the Anglian glaciation fastflowing streams carried sands and gravels, depositing them in valleys where they can be found today (South Norfolk and High Suffolk Claylands 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

Soilscapes maps identify the soils as a combination of slowly permeable seasonally wet slightly acid but base-rich loamy and clayey soils and more fertile slightly acid loamy and clayey soils with impeded drainage, found typically around the river valleys (National Soil Research Institute Soilscape Maps).

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 NCA83

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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 plateau is incised by river valleys flowing eastwards into the North Sea, primarily the Waveney, which forms the Norfolk-Suffolk boundary, and the Gipping, which becomes the Orwell below Ipswich, but also by the Deben, Alde, Blyth and Dove.

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 NCA83

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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

Although well-wooded in the 11th century, much of its ancient woodland had been reduced to dwindling wood pastures by the end of the Middle Ages. The surviving elements are largely confined to small patches dotted along the river valleys. A wooded character is, however, maintained by thick hedgerows with numerous standards and pollards, supplemented by parkland and by numerous modern copses and plantations providing shelter and shooting cover. Hedgerow oaks sometimes remain, even where the hedgerows have been removed (South Norfolk and High Suffolk Claylands 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 NCA83

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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

A mix of remnant medieval ‘ancient countryside’ consisting of irregular small fields often bounded with unkempt and poorly managed hedgerows containing pollarded oaks and large modern fields devoid of boundary hedgerows and trees. On the clay plateau boundaries are often formed by deep ditches often notable by their attendant trees and shrubs (South Norfolk and High Suffolk Claylands Countryside Character Area description, Countryside Quality Counts, 2003).

Field patterns

In essence this is an area of ‘ancient countryside’, but its character has been much weakened by hedgerow removal and field amalgamation in the second half of the 20th century. The original field patterns had a co-axial character, the principal axes consisting of long more-or-less parallel boundaries that ran at right angles to the main watercourses. These patterns were particularly strong in the Scole/Dickleburgh area of Norfolk and in the South Elmham/ Ilketshall area of Suffolk. Although ‘ancient’ in character, estimates of their age range from prehistoric to medieval. Common or ‘open’ fields were limited in extent and most had disappeared by Tudor times. By the late 18th century barely 10 per cent of the landscape remained unenclosed, with the majority of the land being divided into small hedged closes, averaging as little as 2 ha. Most were pastures used for dairy farming, but from the late 18th century improved under-field drainage and increasing grain prices led to widespread arable conversion. The late 20th century saw further enlargement of arable fields, breaking down the earlier patterns and giving some areas of the plateau a prairie-like character. The area south of Wymondham and north-west of Framlingham appears to have undergone most field amalgamation (Draft Historic Profile Countryside Character Area description; Countryside Quality Counts, 2003).

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 NCA83

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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

Valley fens are of particular ecological significance. The relationship between the fens and the underlying geology make them particularly important. The Norfolk Valley Fens and the Waveney-Little Ouse Valley Fens on the Norfolk/Suffolk border represent internationally important calcareous fens with Cladium mariscus and Carex davalliana vegetation. More than 10 per cent of the national resource is contained in this group of fens, and they are considered to be among the best in the country. Other fens are not common in the NCA. Important species within the fens include Desmoulin’s snail and narrow-mouthed whorl snail both of which are rare in Europe. The density of farm ponds in this area is almost unparalleled in the UK and they support internationally important populations of great crested newt. Rich wildflower meadows exist on undisturbed medieval commons and across the area there are a handful of typically small meadows that have never been fertilised or sprayed and remain botanically diverse (East Anglian Plain 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 NCA83

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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

Settlements tend to be mainly small hamlets or dispersed farmsteads. Manorial halls, often with a medieval church nearby, form ‘primary’ settlement clusters, of likely late-Saxon origin in the river valleys whose slopes were easier to drain and cultivate than the poorly-drained clays of the plateau ‘uplands’. Expanding populations in the 12th and 13th centuries led to the establishment of ‘secondary’ settlements that are often gathered around the edges of greens or commons on the adjacent clay uplands, replacing former areas of woodland and wood pasture. The area contains no major post-medieval estates only a scattering of medium-sized ones. There are numerous small market towns such as Wymondham in the north-west, Diss in the centre and Framlingham and Wickham Market in the south-east. Immediately to the south of Norwich ancient villages have agglomerated into an extensive commuter belt (South Norfolk and High Suffolk Countryside Character Area description, Countryside Quality Counts, 2003).

Main settlements

Wymondham, Diss, Framlingham and Wickham Market (South Norfolk and High Suffolk Countryside Character Area description, Countryside Quality Counts, 2003).

Local vernacular and building materials

Timber-framed farmhouses and barns are a characteristic feature of the area which has one of the highest concentrations nationally of surviving pre-1750 farmstead buildings. The timber frames of the farmhouses are mostly concealed behind colourNowhed plaster and the barns are mainly clad with black-painted weatherboarding. Roofs are mainly red clay tiles or thatched, with some slated roofs on 19th century or later buildings. Brick Now increasingly used from the 16th century, initially for high status buildings and then for more vernacular buildings. ‘Clay lump’ (large bricks of unfired clay and straw, usually measuring approximately 100mm by 300mm) is a distinctive East Anglian building material that Now used principally for farm buildings, for cottages and some farmhouses in the middle of the 19th century. The walls were either rendered or given a thin brick skin to make them waterproof. The market towns contain a wealth of architectural styles from the 15th century to the 19th, with some Dutch influence up to 24km inland in the use of clay pantiles (some black-glazed) on roofs and decorative curved gables. Several of the towns, such as Wymondham, Diss, Long Stratton and Framlingham, while retaining their historic core have acquired a hard perimeter of post-war modern and pseudo-vernacular housing (South Norfolk Countryside Character Area description, Countryside Quality Counts, 2003).

Settlement and development patterns map for NCA83

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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

Iron-age and Roman settlement Now extensive and grew again in the Saxon period, so by the time of Domesday most of the present villages were established and the area Now one of the most densely populated in England. Round-towered Saxo-Norman churches of flint construction are a particular feature of the northern part of the area. The large market towns retain high proportions of 15th to 17th century buildings. There is a high survival of moated houses and these are generally associated with high-status sites and of 13th to 14th century date.

The area did not get caught up in the industrial changes of 19th century hence it has one of the country’s highest concentrations of surviving pre-1750 farmhouses and barns. ‘Neathouses’ for housing cattle are documented and sometimes survive as smaller timber-framed structures dating from the 17th century and later. These are locally distinctive and highly significant where they survive as rare examples of early cattle housing.

A castle at Framlingham is first recorded in 1148, but it Now largely destroyed in 1174-5. Its replacement, constructed at the end of the 12th century, has since gone through numerous changes and uses and is now a Scheduled Monument owned by English Heritage.

In the past the area contained several medieval deer parks, as at Framlingham, Dennington, Earl Soham and Saxtead. Sotterley Park in the north-east is a fine example of a ‘pseudo-medieval’ 18th century park. Heveningham Hall to the southwest of Halesworth is one of the few Palladian buildings in Suffolk, designed by Sir Robert Taylor, with an interior and orangery designed by James Wyatt and the grounds and lake fashioned by ‘Capability’ Brown (the lake completed in the late 20th century by Kim Wilkie).

There are also remnants of wartime airfields at Beccles, Bungay, Rougham, Debach, Eye, Halesworth, Parham, Great Ashfield, Mendlesham, Metfield and Shepher’s Grove in Suffolk and Hethel, Seething, Thorpe Abbotts, Hardwick, Old Buckenham and Tibenham in Norfolk (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 NCA83

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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 NCA83

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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) it appears that the lowest scores for tranquillity are associated with the towns of Diss, Wymondham and Attleborough, although the majority of disturbance can be seen to be associated with the main transport routes linking these centres, the A140, A11, A12 and A143. The highest scores for tranquillity are within the upper clay plateau on the agricultural land away from the main settlements and the main ‘A’ roads.

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 that disturbance is associated with the busy ‘A’ roads that run through the area, including the A140, A11, A12 and A143. Intrusion also occurs around the towns of Diss and Wymondham.

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 notable increase of disturbed or intruded land by 25 per cent which Now matched by a reduction of undisturbed or un-intruded land by -26 per cent.