National Character Area 11

Tyne Gap and Hadrian’s Wall - 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

Tyne valley underlain by sedimentary Carboniferous rocks – a repetitive succession of limestones, sandstones and shales and horizontal, igneous rock dolerite, intrusion.

Justification for selection:

  • Narrow, distinctive corridor running east-west, graduating from lowland to upland through low-lying gap formed by glacial erosion.
  • Classic cuesta landscape of escarpments and dip slopes of sedimentary rocks, along with igneous intrusions of Whin Sill.
  • The Whin Sill (geological SSSI), creating dramatic ridges in a moorland landscape and providing a defensive site for Hadrian’s Wall.
  • Limestones beds around Thornbrough (lead mine) and 19th-century limestone kilns
  • Hadrian’s Wall built from Carboniferous Sandstones.
  • Seven sites designated SSSI for their geological interest.

Well-wooded mosaic of deciduous, mixed and coniferous woodland of the Tyne Valley.

Justification for selection:

  • Good woodland cover (10.2 per cent of the NCA) with varied tree species; broadleaved oak on steep slopes of river valleys, birch, hazel, mountain ash and bird cherry in uplands, ash in the lower reaches and alder in upland woods on stream sides.
  • Significant blocks of coniferous or mixed woodland occurring within the Tyne Gap Habitat potential for red squirrel populations surviving in Northumberland and woodland birds.
  • Opportunities for local wood fuel initiatives where access permits.
  • Country estates containing parklands of mature trees (mainly North Tyne).
  • Ancient woodland covering 1,072 ha.

River Tyne and several tributaries flowing east through the Tyne valley; Irthing flowing out to the west.

Justification for selection:

  • Rivers as potable water sources supplying settlements in the NCA and Tyne and Wear Lowlands.
  • Varied river character with wild upland streams and wide, slow-moving meandering rivers with abundant bankside vegetation.
  • Provide habitat for wildlife and enhance recreation such as walking, canoeing and angling (River Tyne is England’s best salmon fishing river).

Agriculture is mainly rough pasture divided by stone walls and fences in the west merging to mixed and arable land in the east.

Justification for selection:

  • Pastoral farming covering over 57 per cent of the NCA, 17 per cent arable and 6 per cent mixed (2009).
  • Half of agricultural land classified Grade 3, and 7 per cent as Grade 2 and 41 per cent is Grade 4 and 5.
  • Sheep and cattle grazing in the west and mixed to arable farming further east.

Nationally rare habitats of mires, loughs, blanket bog, Whin Sill and Calaminarian grasslands.

Justification for selection:

  • Roman Wall Loughs SAC and SSSI containing Loughs (Crag, Broomlee and Greenlee).
  • Associated habitats of Loughs (reedswamp, fen and basin mire) providing breeding and wintering areas for whooper swan, goldeneye and wigeon.
  • Border Mires – Butterburn SAC – one of the least-damaged and species-rich mire complexes in England.
  • Allolee to Walltown SSSI with specialised flora forming part of the Whin Sill grasslands and Waxcap-rich grassland.
  • River Tyne and Allen River Gravels SAC containing structurally varied, species-rich examples of riverine Calaminarian grasslands, rare lichens and fossilised river channel features.
  • Alien species (Japanese knotweed, Himalayan balsam and giant hogweed) affecting Tyne and Allen River Gravels SAC.

Important Roman fortified sites; Hadrian’s Wall, Vindolanda, Housesteads and Birdoswald, other features associated with later border conflicts, range of historic settlements and historic parklands.

Justification for selection:

  • Mesolithic and Neolithic and bronze-age stone circles and burial cairns along the Tyne Gap.
  • Historic remains associated with Roman occupation; forts, camps, roads. Hadrian’s Wall (World Heritage Site) and Vindolanda (Roman auxillary fort and Vindolanda tablets), Housesteads and Birdoswald.
  • Border conflicts and associated fortified structures (castles, bastles and pele towers) and construction of Military Roads during the Jacobite rebellion from Newcastle to Carlisle.
  • Hexham market town with 11th-century Hexham Abbey, Moot Hall, the Shambles market, and England’s first gaol.
  • Large villages and small towns developed at bridging points on the River Tyne (Wylam, Corbridge, and Riding Mill), characterised by sandstone buildings.
  • Dispersed settlements of small, nucleated villages with core of vernacular buildings constructed from Millstone Grit.
  • Expansion of dormitory housing on the outskirts of towns and villages gives main settlements along the A69 such as Hexham and Prudhoe a more urban character.
  • Parkland landscapes, characteristic of the middle reaches of the Tyne Valley in private ownership.

Easily accessible natural and heritage assets via Hadrian’s Wall Path, Pennine Way and Hadrian’s and Pennine Cycleways.

Justification for selection:

  • Public rights of way (573 km), open access land covering 6.4 per cent of the NCA including Hadrian’s Wall Path and the Pennine Way National Trails and Hadrian’s and Pennine National Cycleways.
  • Visitor attractions include historical features (Roman, Medieval, mining heritage) with some major visitor centres along Hadrian’s Wall, and natural environment (Muckle Moss and Greenlee Lough National Nature Reserves).
  • Highly tranquil areas connecting people to the natural environment, contributing to health and wellbeing.
  • Well managed honeypot areas avoiding damage to footpaths and heritage assets.
  • Largely, unfettered skyline contributes strongly to sense of place, only interrupted by the manmade vertical structures of the chipboard manufacturing plant at Hexham and paper mill at Prudhoe.

Lack of light pollution leading to Dark Sky Park status by International Dark-Sky Association.

Justification for selection:

  • Opportunities for improved astronomical observations and increased tourism opportunities.

Landscape opportunities

  • Manage broadleaved woodlands to ensure their continuation as features in the landscape. Enhancing their biodiversity interest by increasing the proportion of native, broadleaved species, softening outlines and integrating conifers with mixed plantations.
  • Manage coniferous plantations and other woodlands as habitat for red squirrels and woodland birds.
  • Manage the occurrence of tree diseases such as ash dieback Chalara fraxinea, where it may significantly impact on woodland, hedgerow and parkland trees and instigate biosecurity measures where appropriate.
  • Increase broadleaved woodland on valley sides, moorland fringes and alongside watercourses to improve water quality and manage flood risk, avoiding important ecological, heritage and geological sites and areas where panoramic views occur.
  • Create more areas of semi-natural grassland and hay meadows in upland areas and along Hadrian’s Wall, avoiding ecologically sensitive habitats.
  • Maintain existing stone walls and field patterns while restoring and creating hedgerows where they are gappy to strengthen wildlife corridors and habitat networks.
  • Plan integrated interpretation about the geodiversity, and habitats and associated wildlife of the area including the Whin Sill escarpments and grasslands, limestone kilns and Roman Wall Loughs on Local and National Nature Reserves and heritage sites.
  • Protect heritage features on agricultural land by reversing arable to grassland, scrub removal on earthworks/monuments and maintaining grasslands with low-density grazing regimes.
  • Protect the heritage of the area by developing and supporting long-term visitor management plans including visitor payback schemes and promotion of the Countryside Code.
  • Plan appropriate access for all abilities by maintaining and expanding the public rights of way network and range of recreation opportunities, incorporating links to key geological and historical sites wherever possible, linking to visitor facilities and developing innovative activities to enhance people’s access to and enjoyment of the natural environment.
  • Protect important geological features such as those of the Whin Sill from woodland planting, quarrying, developments and invasive vegetation.
  • Plan to ensure developments respect local settlement patterns, using traditional building materials in the restoration of vernacular buildings and protecting unfettered skylines.
  • Ensure that green spaces are sensitively designed to fit with natural features in the surrounding rural areas and with minimal light spill.