Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty – North

Everyone has heard of National Parks. Probably most people in England could name at least a few of them, although they may be surprised at how many there are in the North. But AONBs? What are they?

What is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB)?

Natural England, the government body responsible for designating and overseeing AONBs describes them as follows.

Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) are areas of high scenic quality that have statutory protection in order to conserve and enhance the natural beauty of their landscapes. AONB landscapes range from rugged coastline to water meadows to gentle lowland and upland moors. They are different from National Parks because of their more limited opportunities for extensive outdoor recreation.
[Natural England web site]

These are very special areas, but compared with the better known national parks, tend to be less known to the general public, possibly because tourism development has not taken such a high profile. Without a doubt tourism income is an important component in their prosperity, but it has to be achieved through approaches that will not lead to visitors damaging the very landscape that attracts them.

The North of England has seven AONBs.

Arnside and Silverdale AONB – Web site
Forest of Bowland AONB – Web site

Nidderdale AONB – Web site
Howardian Hills AONB – Web site

Northumberland Coast AONB – Web site

The Solway Coast AONB – Web site

The North Pennines AONB – Web site

Each AONB is required to produce a five year management plan, with discussion of strategic issues and its action plan. Some are also designated under other schemes. For example, the North Pennines AONB is also a European Geopark and has an action plan related to this. These documents are publicly available and provide a wealth of insight into the character and challenges of our beautiful places.


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