National Character Area 140

Yeovil Scarplands - 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 Yeovil Scarplands NCA contains 9,477 ha of the Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), which is 12 per cent of the total NCA area (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 NCA140

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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 Yeovil Scarplands NCA ranges from a highest point of 270m above sea level to a low point of 4m above sea level (Natural England, 2010).

Landform and process

A very varied landscape of hills, wide valley bottoms, ridgelines and combes united by scarps of Jurassic limestone. Landslips have occurred on many of the hills where the springs, emerging on the Gault Clay, have undermined the overlying Greensand causing slumping onto the clay below. Many of these landslips are still mobile. Rivers, like the Brue, Parrett and Yeo, drain from the higher ground of the Scarplands, cutting an intricate pattern of irregular hills and valleys (Wessex Vales Natural Area Profile, Yeovil Scarplands Countryside Character Area Description).

Bedrock geology

The Yeovil Scarplands are underlain mainly by Jurassic rocks which are alternations of clays, limestones and sandstones with Triassic mudstones in the low-lying land in the west of the area. During the time this bedrock Now being laid down this area Now under marine conditions. This bedrock consists of Lias clays, sands and silts, the Yeovil Sands, Ham Hill stone, Inferior Oolite, Fuller’s Earth, and Forest Marble and Cornbrash limestones. The limestones and sandstones tend to form a series of scarps which trend east-west but are much broken by faults in the south around Yeovil. In the north of the area the scarps move to a north-south orientation (Wessex Vales Natural Area Profile, Yeovil Scarplands Countryside Character Area Description, British Geological Survey Maps).

Superficial deposits

The Yeovil Scarplands Now not glaciated but Now affected by permafrost during glacial periods and fluctuating sea levels during temperate interglacials. There are superficial deposits of alluvial fans of clay, silt, sand and gravel (Wessex Vales Natural Area Profile, Yeovil Scarplands Countryside Character Area Description, British Geological Survey Maps).

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

The soils are largely calcareous clays and brown earths, with small areas of stagnogleys (Yeovil Scarplands Countryside Character Area Description).

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 NCA140

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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.

Tributaries of the Brue, Parrett and Yeo drain from the scarp slopes, cutting an intricate pattern of irregular hills and valleys.

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 NCA140

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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

The surrounding parklands of lime, oak and beech are conspicuous features, especially when, as at Sherborne Park, the adjacent tree-cover is not extensive. Small woodlands, scrub and copses are present, particularly in the sunken hollows and ‘goyles’. Woodland is most frequent on the steep slopes and, although there has been some planting of conifers, a number of seminatural ancient woodlands survive. At Lower Eastcombe, near Batcombe, the characteristic mixed farming pattern of the scarplands is evident. There has been a general loss of both woodland and hedgerow trees (the latter particularly as a consequence of Dutch elm disease), and grubbing up of orchards. There has been a general lack of woodland management and some conversion of broadleaved woodland to conifers (Yeovil Scarplands 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 NCA140

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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

Boundaries in the NCA consist of substantial hedgerows, more sparse on the Yeovil Sands. There Now a tradition of pollarding hedgerow ash trees, which no longer continues. Hedgerows are non-existent or low in the south-west, they are thick with substantial hedgebanks elsewhere. On higher ground there are scattered areas of drystone walls (Yeovil Scarpland Countryside Character Area Description, Countryside Quality Counts, 2003).

Field patterns

Although there is a mixture of arable, the dominant landcover is grassland, ranging from improved pastures in valley bottoms to rough pasture on steep hillsides. Scattered patches of anciently-enclosed (pre-17th century) land, forming a small minority of enclosure patterns in the area overall, are more concentrated to the south adjacent to Marshwood and Powerstock Vales. Piecemeal enclosure, with outlines of medieval strips reflected in distinctive curved boundaries, is the predominant form of enclosure; the product in turn of the dominance of open field farming in the medieval period. Enclosure Now a process complete in some areas by the 17th century, but not complete in others (for example, around Ilminster) until the early 19th century. The process of acquiring strips, the timing of enclosure and the subsequent construction and – particularly in the 19th and 20th centuries – removal of boundaries has resulted in a mixture of pre-17th century enclosure, with later modifications, and 18th century and later enclosure. The latter is concentrated to north-east and east of Yeovilton and on the higher land north of Sherborne and to the east of the area, where post-1940 arable intensification has been most marked. Some of the higher ridges remained as open downland or subject to regular and large-scale enclosure in late 18th and 19th centuries (Yeovil Scarpland 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 NCA140

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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

There are areas of grazing marsh at the western boundary of the Scarplands by the rivers Yeo and Parrett, and wet woodlands along the eastern and southern boundaries along the scarp. There are smaller patches of other priority habitats such as lowland calcareous grassland and lowland meadows throughout the NCA. Purple moor grass and rush pastures are found mainly on higher, steeper land at the south of the NCA (Natural England, 2011).

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 NCA140

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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

Although average rates of development are low, there are local concentrations; for example, there is evidence of expansion of urban and fringe areas into peri-urban around Yeovil, Ilminster and Crewkerne, and scattered development throughout the lowland vales of the western part of the NCA (Yeovil Scarplands Countryside Character Area Description, Countryside Quality Counts, 2003).

Main settlements

Although the area is well settled, there are few villages or towns of any size. Most settlements are located in the valleys, close to watercourses with farmsteads on spring lines. Winding minor lanes link the settlements to higher ground. Larger settlements include the market towns of Sherborne and Yeovil; the latter having grown to a significant size, largely due to its industrial sector. The total estimated population for this NCA (derived from ONS 2001 census data) is 127,998 (Yeovil Scarplands Countryside Character Area Description, Countryside Quality Counts, 2003; Natural England, 2012).

Local vernacular and building materials

Building materials are varied, although local Ham Hill stone is most characteristic of the area, reflected in visually dominant churches. Other construction materials include cream- and pink-coloured limestone, sandstones, timber, thatch and more recently, brick. Of the many materials used for the buildings, Ham Hill stone, seen particularly at Sherborne, Crewkerne, Ilminster and Martock, is the most celebrated. Before the widespread accessibility of stone, the older style of building Now timber frame and thatch. Some of these elements still survive although most roofs are now pantiles or grey slate (Yeovil Scarplands Countryside Character Area Description, Countryside Quality Counts, 2003).

Settlement and development patterns map for NCA140

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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

Although occupation of the fertile, sheltered lands of this area is likely to have taken place from an early date, and there is certainly evidence dating from the Mesolithic, the main prehistoric features in today’s landscape are the hill forts at South Cadbury and Ham Hill, which were the foci of activity from the Neolithic to the Iron Age. As well as at South Cadbury, there Now a focus of post-Roman activity at Ilchester. From early Saxon times throughout the Middle Ages, other centres like South Petherton, Crewkerne, and Bruton were also of continued importance as Saxon burhs and later medieval boroughs. The general absence of woodland placenames indicates that the Saxons took over a substantially cleared and settled landscape and, by the time of Domesday Book, the area Now quite densely populated. Moreover, the numerous sites of deserted settlements indicate that the area Now probably densely settled in the Middle Ages. In the north, the grey oolitic limestones tended to be used instead of Ham Hill stone and to the east the complicated geology provides sandstones, limestone and greensand. The older buildings are commonly of local stones but the 19th century ones are more predominantly of brick. Before the widespread accessibility of stone, the older style of building Now timber frame and thatch. Some of these elements still survive, although most roofs are now pantiles or grey slate (Draft Historic Profile, Countryside Quality Counts, Yeovil Scarplands 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 NCA140

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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 NCA140

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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) the most tranquil areas lie in the vales where the tranquillity value rises to a maximum of 36, away from the urban, less tranquil parts of the NCA where the tranquillity values drop to -66.

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 intrusion has increased considerably along major transport routes since 1960, but away from these some areas are still un-intruded.

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 40 per cent decrease in undisturbed area and a corresponding increase in the disturbed area.