National Character Area 23

Tees Lowlands - Analysis: Landscape Attributes & Opportunities

Analysis supporting Statements of Environmental Opportunity

The following analysis section focuses on the landscape attributes and opportunities for this NCA.

Further analysis on ecosytem services for this NCA is contained in the Analysis: Ecosytem Services section.

Landscape attributes

Mosaic of mud and sand flats, peatbeds, dunes, salt marsh and brownfield sites at Teesside, in close proximity to heavy industry.

Justification for selection:

  • Estuarine habitats at the mouth of the Tees form a series of nationally designated Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), including salt marsh and grazing marsh at Cowpen Marsh, intertidal mudflats at Seal Sands, peatbeds at Seaton Carew and Redcar and the dune system at South Gare and Coatham Sands.
  • These sites have been internationally designated as both Teesmouth and Cleveland Coast Special Protection Area and Ramsar site due to the importance of the wetland ecosystem and shorebird assemblage. Part of the area is also designated as Teesmouth National Nature Reserve.
  • Intertidal habitats are found in close proximity to heavy industrial installations including chemical and oil-refining works and a nuclear power station, which form a dramatic skyline.
  • Early successional grassland and scrub has emerged in slag substrate on previously developed sites.

Broad, low-lying plain of fertile agricultural land in the valleys of the Rivers Tees and Leven, with large fields bounded by hedges and wide views to distant hills, contrasting with the urban and industrial development at Teesside.

Justification for selection:

  • The rural hinterland is predominantly agricultural in character, with the majority of land being Grade 2 or 3 agricultural land.
  • There is evidence of past agricultural patterns in the landscape, such as archaeological evidence of ridge-and-furrow farming and deserted villages.
  • This quiet rural area contrasts sharply with the large Teesside conurbation, and its associated transport corridors and other infrastructure.

Meandering river channels with steep, well-wooded banks.

Justification for selection:

  • The River Tees and its tributary the Leven form deeply meandering river channels in their lower reaches. The steeper sections of riverbank are often well wooded, predominantly ash and alder, in contrast to the sparse woodland cover in the Tees Lowland NCA as a whole.
  • The River Tees has strongly influenced settlement pattern historically, with villages being sited beside it to make use of its resources.

Low-lying farmland with remnants of former wetland habitat in the Skerne Lowlands.

Justification for selection:

  • A distinctive area of low-lying valley farmland occurs in the valley of the River Skerne north of Darlington.
  • An extensive area of wetland fen and carr habitat once occurred at Preston, Bradbury and Morden carrs, but has been largely drained for agricultural use. The ditch at Railway Stell West, the most notable remnant of fenland flora, has been designated as an SSSI and provides a refuge for a range of aquatic plants and invertebrates.

Green corridors forming links between large urban areas and the surrounding countryside.

Justification for selection:

  • Former railways have been converted into pedestrian and cycle routes providing links between the urban areas of Teesside, the estuary and the surrounding countryside.
  • Watercourses also provide green routes, such as the small becks which flow from the escarpment of the Cleveland Hills northwards through Middlesbrough into the Tees.
  • Green corridors form an important recreational and nature conservation resource in an area which has undergone rapid urban expansion since the 19th century.

Landscape opportunities


  • Protect the remaining areas of mud and sand flat, dunes and salt marsh at Teesmouth, and plan to increase their extent, through managed realignment of the coastline away from urban centres, allowing habitats to gradually shift as a result of dynamic coastal processes.
  • Protect the agricultural character of rural parts of the Tees Lowlands NCA with their wide views to distant hills, and the strong contrast between these areas and the urban development around the Tees Estuary.
  • Enhance the nature conservation value of agricultural land and restore wildlife-friendly habitats such as hedgerows, permanent pasture, meadows and orchards, by promoting the uptake of agri-environment schemes. Enhance existing hedgerows by planting more frequent hedgerow trees.
  • Conserve archaeological evidence of former ridge-and-furrow farming and deserted villages, as well as the historic form of existing ‘green’ villages.
  • Enhance the character of the Tees, Skerne and Leven river corridors, and their value for wildlife, by maintaining natural flow patterns, restoring riverside vegetation where it has been lost, and promoting low intensity management of adjacent farmland.
  • Manage, protect and look for opportunities to restore wet pasture, and other wetland habitats in the Skerne Lowlands, providing a natural buffer for flood waters, by restoring former ditches, and maintaining water table levels.
  • Restore native broadleaved woodland and appropriately manage existing woodland to enhance its value.
  • Create new areas of accessible greenspace on the urban fringe, enhance access to existing assets such as green wedges, beck valleys, walkways and disused railway lines, and improve links between green corridors to form a strategic green network.
  • Provide interpretation of geological features of interest, such as the sandstone exposures at Redcar and peat deposits at Hartlepool Submerged Forest.