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.

A remote corner of Wales where the Welsh language continues to thrive and a tiny coastal island has lured both pilgrims and pinnipeds for centuries
Occupying a rectangular chunk of North Yorkshire, the Howardian Hills AONB contains an astonishingly high concentration of historic country homes
Cranborne Chase and West Wiltshire Downs AONB is very rural and refreshingly uncrowded. Its rich cultural and historical heritage has long been a draw to archaeologists
The largest area of outstanding natural beauty in Britain, the Cotswolds is a quintessential slice of rural southern England spread across several counties
An area of outstanding natural beauty where the striking hills have been hewn from some of England’s hardest and oldest rocks
Nestled between Strangford Lough and the Mourne Mountains, the fertile soils of the Lecale peninsula have drawn successive cultures to it, while its coastal fringes are a magnet for wildlife
A strip of coastline that encompasses five river valleys, sandy beaches and winding country lanes, South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty has long been a stronghold of maritime heritage
Stretching out from the centre of Belfast along the River Lagan, the Lagan Valley straddles the divide between the big city and the surrounding countryside
Wrapped around the northwestern edge of County Londonderry, Binevenagh encompasses a dramatic and varied coastal landscape that forms the backdrop to one of the world’s most beautiful train journeys, according to one writer
Stretching along the Northern Ireland coast from Ballycastle to Larne, this area of deep valleys and spectacular cliffs shares a rich cultural legacy with nearby Scotland. It’s also home to the odd bird or two
Marc Grainger visits Dorset, where the wildlife-rich lowland heath is just a stone’s throw away from one of the world’s most geologically important coastlines
A lowland valley straddling the counties of Essex and Suffolk, Dedham Vale AONB encompasses a rural idyll of sleepy farming villages dotted about a gently rolling landscape either side of the River Stour
Olivia Edwards explores Scotland's Solway Coast 

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