National Character Area 11

Tyne Gap and Hadrian’s Wall - 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.

In the central portion of the NCA, 6,988 ha (16 per cent of the NCA) falls within the southern boundary of the Northumberland National Park. A small part of the western end of the NCA, 313 ha (<1 per cent of the NCA), falls within the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) (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 NCA11

View Landscape and nature conservation designations map for NCA11 full screen in a new tab
View Interactive Map Help

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 ranges from 5m above sea level to 333m at Winshield Crags, north of Twice Brewed. The average elevation of the landscape is 143m (Natural England, 2010).

Landform and process

This is a distinctive lowland corridor which separates the upland blocks of the North Pennines to the south and the Border Moors and Forests to the north. A number of rivers flow in to join the Tyne which flows from west to east down the valley, while at the west end the River Irthing flows in a westerly direction. The lowland corridor of the river flood plain with its flat, arable fields contrast with the larger scale upper slopes of the valleys. At higher elevations to the north there are rough moorlands associated with the Whin Sill outcrops, which form a series of dramatic and rugged north facing escarpments (Tyne Gap and Hadrian’s Wall Countryside Character Area description).

Bedrock geology

The valleys are underlain by sedimentary Carboniferous rocks which comprise a repetitive succession of limestones, sandstones and shales, with local thin coals and mineral veins. North of the Tyne the rocks dip southwards, where differential weathering has produced a striking landform of sharply dipping escarpments. The hard Whin Sill forms an almost continuous north facing escarpment (Tyne Gap and Hadrian’s Wall Countryside Character Area description).

Superficial deposits

The Tyne Gap is a fault line corridor that has been subjected to river and ice erosion, and is thickly covered with glacial drift of boulder clay, with glacial action resulting in the creation of loughs and drumlins. Deposition of sands and gravels during melting stages produced terrace deposits along the Tyne Gap. In post-glacial times, wide alluvial flats, known as haughs, have developed in places alongside the River Tyne (Tyne Gap and Hadrian’s Wall 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

Almost half of the NCA comprises seasonally wet, acid loamy and clayey soils while the remaining area contains the following soil profile; freely draining slightly acid loamy soils (14 per cent), slightly acid loamy and clayey soils with impeded drainage (11 per cent), freely draining flood plain soils (6 per cent), slowly permeable wet very acid upland soils with a peaty surface (6 per cent), slowly permeable seasonally wet slightly acid but base-rich loamy and clayey soils (6 per cent), freely draining slightly acid sandy soils (2 per cent), naturally wet very acid sandy and loamy soils (1 per cent), very acid loamy upland soils with a wet peaty surface (1 per cent), and raised bog peat soils (1 per cent).

The more fertile soils are found in the main Tyne valley whereas poorer, thin soils occur on the northern escarpments. More acidic soils are found on the moorland, where there is acid grassland and purple moor grass, while on the drier edge of the mires thin peatland soils have a high mineral content.

Grade 2 agricultural land is found within the Tyne valley, with Grade 4 land on the side slopes and Grade 5 land on the Whin Sill outcrops and other higher land along the north side of the Tyne valley (National Soil Resources Institute Soilscape Map).

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):

The NCA is part of the watershed for two main catchments; the east-flowing Tyne and its tributaries, the South Tyne, the North Tyne and the Allen, and the west-flowing River Irthing. The River Irthing flows west, through a small, contained valley. Near the watershed, at Haltwhistle, the River South Tyne flows north and then turns to head eastwards along the valley, joined by the River Allen from the south and the North Tyne from the north, to form the Tyne.


Landform, geology and soils map for NCA11

View Landform, geology and soils map for NCA11 full screen in a new tab
View Interactive Map Help

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 NCA is part of the watershed for two main catchments; the east-flowing Tyne and its tributaries, the South Tyne, the North Tyne and the Allen, and the west-flowing River Irthing. The River Irthing flows west, through a small, contained valley. Near the watershed, at Haltwhistle, the River South Tyne flows north and then turns to head eastwards along the valley, joined by the River Allen from the south and the North Tyne from the north, to form the Tyne.

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 NCA11

View Key waterbodies and catchments map for NCA11 full screen in a new tab
View Interactive Map Help

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

Broadleaved woodland occurs on the steeper side slopes of the river valleys, with some conifer plantations and shelterbelts, in particular towards the east end of the valley. Approximately 49 per cent of the woodland cover is on an ancient woodland site with 26 per cent of these sites covered by a Woodland Grant Scheme agreement. There are few hedgerow trees and those that occur are mainly ash, with some sycamore. Parklands with mature trees spaced out in pastures, avenues and woodlands are characteristic of the middle reaches of the Tyne valley (Tyne Gap and Hadrian’s Wall 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 NCA11

View Trees and woodlands map for NCA11 full screen in a new tab
View Interactive Map Help

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

There is a variety of enclosure patterns, with large, regular fields generally enclosed by drystone walls predominant in the west and on higher land, particularly in the upper reaches of the valleys, and large fields bounded by hedgerows in the middle and eastern reaches of the Tyne valley (Tyne Gap and Hadrian’s Wall Countryside Character Area description; Countryside Quality Counts, 2003).

Field patterns

In the western part of the NCA, and on the upper slopes, drystone walls and hedgerows define the fields. Some of the larger fields are sub-divided by fences. Within the valleys and further east, hedgerows are more frequent, but with few hedgerow trees (Tyne Gap and Hadrian’s Wall 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 NCA11

View Agriculture map for NCA11 full screen in a new tab
View Interactive Map Help

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

Upland broadleaved woodlands
Broadleaved woodlands are generally limited to the steep slopes of the river valleys, in particular the North Tyne. Most of the woods comprise both sessile and pedunculate oak but associated species in the upland areas include birch, hazel, mountain ash and bird cherry. In the lower reaches, ash is more common and sycamore a frequent coloniser. Alder is typical of the upland woods on the stream sides.

The range of bird species supported by these woodlands includes dipper, goosander, pied flycatcher, redstart, wood warbler and tree pipit.

Blanket bog or mire
On the higher land mire and bogs form a mantle of peat in wet hollows and over large expanses of the undulating land surface and are fed by rainfall, the dominant vegetation being sphagnum bog mosses, heath species and cloudberry at higher levels.

Wetter mires often occur at lower levels, fed by run-off and water collecting from adjacent hills and rain fall. They are often characterised by heather. On the mires where there are shallower peat deposits that have been managed or disturbed, purple moor grass dominates.

Several upland bird species are supported by blanket bog or mire, notably raptors, grouse and waders and nationally rare invertebrates including flies, spiders and beetles are associated with blanket mire and bog pools.

Heather and grass moorlands
These habitats often occur in combination with the blanket mire and bogs, particularly on the lower hills and on free-draining substrates. Grass moorland swards are usually species-poor and purple moor grass, mat grass, bents and fescues are the dominant grass species. Heather and grass moorland make up a significant proportion of the grazing land for pastoral agriculture.

Rushy pasture
Rushy pasture is important in the NCA, principally for the breeding birds that it supports. It occurs as a mosaic of acid and neutral, wet and dry semi-improved grassland as enclosed land around settlements and farms on the lower hills and in valley bottoms. It is often grazed by cattle and sheep, at varying densities. Characteristic species include bents, fescues and crested dog’s tail, with wetter areas containing various sedges, rushes, moor grass and tufted hair grass.

The structure of the sward is attractive to breeding waders including redshank, lapwing, curlew and snipe. If unimproved, and containing areas of wet flushes, rushy pasture supports large invertebrate populations, an important food resource for waders and black grouse chicks.

Roman wall loughs/wetlands
Greenlee and Broomlee loughs form some of the series of natural waterbodies found on the shallowly ridged plateau north of Hadrian’s Wall. They are of national importance for their wetland interest, being predominantly open water and characterised by associated habitats including reedswamp, fen and basin mire. They also support aquatic invertebrates and lower plant species, providing breeding and wintering areas for wildfowl such as whooper swan, goldeneye, teal and widgeon.

Whin grassland
The Whin Sill outcrops to the north of the NCA from an intrusion of hard rock, a series of rugged, undulating escarpments. Vegetation on these thin soils supports specialised flora often occurring as a mosaic with species characteristic of calcareous grassland. Some species found on the exposures are long stalked cranesbill, hairy stonecrop and maiden pink.

Rivers
The NCA is characterised by several rivers, notably the Tyne and Irthing that support threatened species such as otter, water vole and freshwater pearl mussel. They show a distinctive zonation from wild upland streams to wide, slow-moving meandering river with abundant aquatic and bankside vegetation (Border Uplands 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 NCA11

View Key habitats and species map for NCA11 full screen in a new tab
View Interactive Map Help

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

A number of large villages and small towns such as Corbridge, and Halwhistle, developed as strategic locations in the valley and as bridging points over the River Tyne. Hexham developed from its 7th-century Augustinian abbey to an important market town, and with the coming of the railway as a commuter settlement for Newcastle. Prudhoe developed rapidly in the late 19th century as a result of the coal mining industry as did Haydon Bridge and Haltwhistle. Settlement is more dispersed away from the valley bottom (Tyne Gap and Hadrian’s Wall Countryside Character Area description; Countryside Quality Counts, 2003).

Main settlements

The largest settlement is Hexham with a total population of 10,682. Some of the other main settlements include; Prudhoe, (10,437), Haltwhistle, (3,811), Corbridge (2,800), Wylam (1,549) and Stocksfield, (3,039). The total estimated population for this NCA (derived from ONS 2001 Census data) is: 48,632 (Tyne Gap and Hadrian’s Wall Countryside Character Area description; Countryside Quality Counts, 2003).

Local vernacular and building materials

Valley bottom settlements are characterised by stone buildings, built of sandstone. Millstone Grit Now used in the dispersed settlements higher up the valley sides. There are a number of fortified castles and farmhouses, known as bastles, some of which are found at Haughton in the North Tyne Valley and Bellister near Haltwhistle (Tyne Gap and Hadrian’s Wall Countryside Character Area description; Countryside Quality Counts, 2003).

Settlement and development patterns map for NCA11

View Settlement and development patterns map for NCA11 full screen in a new tab
View Interactive Map Help

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

Neolithic farmer-hunters and bronze-age settlers extended settlement, represented by stone circles and burial cairns, that follows a wide linear band along the major communication route of the Tyne Gap. Roman monuments are prominent, such as Hadrian’s Wall following the Whin Sill outcrop east to west, and related roads, military camps and domestic settlements. By medieval times much of the area reverted to Nowte and woodland, leaving some fortified bastles or pele towers along the active road corridor. More settled border conditions encouraged the development of county house estates in the 17th century. Grain export Now enabled by the turnpike constructed from Hexham to the coast in the mid 18th century. East-west communications further improved due to the construction of a military road along Hadrian’s Wall and, from the mid 19th century the building of the railway. Traditional buildings are characterised by use of local sandstone, but later styles are mixed due to the availability of materials bought by rail. Hexham has a range of Regency and Georgian buildings around the medieval core (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 NCA11

View Key historic sites and features map for NCA11 full screen in a new tab
View Interactive Map Help

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 NCA11

View Recreation and access map for NCA11 full screen in a new tab
View Interactive Map Help

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) this is a very tranquil area, with the lowest scores for tranquillity found at Hexham, Prudhoe and Haltwhistle and the highest scores applicable to the north-west of the NCA, away from the main settlements and the A69.

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 the highest levels of intrusion are found along the A69, the Newcastle to Carlisle rail link and the route of the National Grid high voltage transmission lines. A breakdown of intrusion values for this NCA is detailed in the table over.

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 are that disturbance has increased by approximately one third each decade, notably along the main communications corridor and around settlements.