AREA OF OUTSTANDING NATURAL BEAUTY

 

An Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) is exactly what it says it is: a precious landscape whose distinctive character and natural beauty are so outstanding that it is in the nation's interest to safeguard them.

Created by the same legislation that led to the national parks – the 1949 National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act – the AONBs were established to conserve the beauty of the best of largely lowland rural Britain’s populated agricultural landscapes. This made them quite distinct from the national parks, which themselves were deliberately created in more remote, mainly upland areas that had large expanses of open land suitable not only for nature conservation, but also for the promotion of recreation. They were also designed to be run quite differently, the parks developing their own bureaucracies, complete with planning powers, large staffs and central funding, while the AONBs remained tied to local government, with a tiny core staff and relatively meagre finances.

Although the Suffolk Coast and Heaths AONB is home to Britain’s youngest working nuclear plant, it also contains some of the country’s most important bird reserves. An AONB seemingly riddled with contradictions
The Tamar Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty has a long mining history, the remains of which now complement its gorges and rivers to form part of a World Heritage site that is rich in wildlife
High Weald, UK’s fourth-largest AONB, is often described as a quintessential English landscape, stretching across Kent, Surrey and Sussex
The Lincolnshire Wolds still bear the indelible impressions of numerous medieval villages that have long since returned to the soil. But it's the rolling hills and chalk streams that draw visitors today
Riven with river valleys and dotted with Iron Age hillforts, the Blackdown Hills are being opened up by a new trail system to improve access and preserve the region
A look at the UK’s smallest mainland AONB, which encompasses the largest surviving area of lowland heath in the Midlands and once acted as a training ground for more than half a million soldiers
The largest inlet in the British Isles, Strangford Lough is a magnet for wildlife, from brent geese to basking sharks. Now, the fast-flowing narrows are a testing ground for renewable energy technology
Despite suffering regular batterings by the Atlantic Ocean, the Isles of Scilly are a haven for unusual plant and animal species— but the threat of sea-level rise is a real cause for concern in this AONB
The Shropshire Hills are often overlooked by tourists but are filled with unusual sights and species including ancient holly trees and freshwater mussels
On the edge of the Yorkshire Dales is an AONB whose reservoirs and ruins reveal its uses for both practical and pleasurable purposes
Treacherous quicksand and booming birds – a look at Britain’s smallest AONB
An AONB where coordinated efforts are underway to preserve the rural idyll and countryside character that belies its location just south of Greater London
Stretching from the Strule Valley to Lough Neagh, the Sperrins AONB encompasses a glaciated landscape that’s rich in history and contains internationally important blanket bog
In search of bats and cliff-top farmland among the rural woods and spectacular coastlines of the West Country
When is a forest not a forest? When it's this Lancashire AONB - ancient royal hunting land that now supports a healthy farming community.
The evocatively named Ring of Gullion Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, which encircles an impressive ring dyke, the formation of which has both puzzled geologists and inspired a rich folklore
The undulating chalk hills and characteristic brick cottages of an AONB whose centuries-old traditions are at odds with its proximity to the metropolis of London
An AONB that showcases coastal cliffs, sandy beaches, fishing villages, the vast combined estuaries of the Taw and Torridge rivers, and the largest sand dune system in England within its three segments

Geographical Week

Get the best of Geographical delivered straight to your inbox every Friday.

Subscribe Today

EDUCATION PARTNERS

Aberystwyth UniversityUniversity of GreenwichThe University of Winchester

TRAVEL PARTNERS

Ponant

Silversea

Travel the Unknown

DOSSIERS

Like longer reads? Try our in-depth dossiers that provide a comprehensive view of each topic

  • Diabetes: The World at Risk
    Diabetes is often thought of as a ‘western’ problem, one linked to the developed world’s overindulgence in fatty foods and chronic lack of physi...
    National Clean Air Day
    For National Clean Air Day, Geographical brings together stories about air pollution and the kind of solutions needed to tackle it ...
    REDD+ or Dead?
    The UN-backed REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) scheme, under which developing nations would be paid not to cut dow...
    When the wind blows
    With 1,200 wind turbines due to be built in the UK this year, Mark Rowe explores the continuing controversy surrounding wind power and discusses the e...
    The true cost of meat
    As one of the world’s biggest methane emitters, the meat industry has a lot more to concern itself with than merely dietary issues ...

MORE DOSSIERS

NEVER MISS A STORY - follow Geographical

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.