National Character Area 26

Vale of Pickering - Summary and Headline Statements of Environmental Opportunity


The Vale of Pickering is a low-lying basin of flat or gently undulating topography, lying between North Yorkshire’s uplands to the north, west and south, and the Scarborough coast on its eastern side. As such it has physical links with many surrounding areas, particularly through river catchments.

Parts of the coastal area are designated as being of European importance as a Special Protection Area (Flamborough Head and Bempton Cliffs for birds) and as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) (Flamborough Head for its chalk cliff grassland habitats). The National Character Area’s (NCA’s) main river, the River Derwent, is also an SAC. The archaeologically important Star Carr site is recognised by English Heritage as being of national and international significance for its completeness of record of human habitation: the Vale of Pickering was occupied by Lake Pickering during the last glacial period so its ‘shores’ are rich in evidence of human use from this period.

This is a landscape of rivers and wetlands which have been artificially drained and modified for productive farming. In providing essential ecosystem services, the most critical in the Vale is the regulation of water flows, through good catchment management to hold water on the land and prevent flooding in Pickering and Malton, towns which have experienced two 1-in-100-year flood events in recent years. Reconnecting the River Derwent with its flood plain and restoring wetland habitat offer opportunities to attenuate water and thus regulate flow, creating scope for climate change mitigation and adaptation, alongside food production. The uplands surrounding this NCA include substantial areas of protected landscapes in the North York Moors National Park and Howardian Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the latter extending into the south-western end of the Vale. The management of vegetation and soils in these uplands is also critical to regulating water flow downstream in the Vale, and thus a catchment-scale approach is needed to understand and address the severe flooding events experienced within this NCA. Preserving the archaeological record while restoring the hydrological integrity of the peat is a related issue of importance; understanding the interrelations between these, through an ecosystem services approach, enables fuller consideration of the associated costs and benefits.

Headline Statements of Environmental Opportunity (SEO)

See the Statements of Environmental Opportunity section for more details on the headlines listed below.


Enhance the network of wetland habitats in the Vale to provide public benefits in improved flood mitigation and improved water quality, and to reduce habitat fragmentation and increase the resilience of habitats and species to environmental change.


Protect and enhance the historic landscape and geodiversity of the Vale, promoting greater understanding of this to inform current and future decisions on how the landscape is used.


Manage the agricultural landscape to enhance the sustainable future of farming, strengthen landscape character, protect soils and water, and enhance biodiversity through improved connectivity of semi-natural habitats, creating ecological networks that are resilient to environmental change.


Ensure that developments are successfully integrated into the landscape, making a contribution to biodiversity and habitat networks, and that they do not compromise the sense of tranquillity and openness of the rural landscape, or delivery of other important ecosystem services, including mitigating and adapting to climate change.