The Yorkshire Wolds put forward as a possible new 'Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty'

The Yorkshire Wildlife Trust has broadly welcomed the inclusion of the Yorkshire Wolds as one of two areas of the UK to be potentially designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) but warn that more needs to be done in our existing landscapes if our declining wildlife is to recover. The proposal is one of a raft of measures outlined last month in the governments response statement to the Glover Review - an independent report into the state of our National Parks & AONBs, published back in 2019. 

Glover Review, landscapes, national parks, AONBs. Yorkshires Wildlife  Chalkland Way, Yorkshire Wolds

Coming over 2 years after Julian Glover's report, Natural England, as the government’s statutory advisor on landscapes in England will head up an initial programme of work with the key objectives as follows - 

  • Consideration of AONB status for the Yorkshire Wolds and Cheshire Sandstone Ridge
  • Possible extension of the Surrey Hills and Chilterns AONBs
  • A new Natural England programme to address inequity of access to the natural environment
  • A new strategic map for ‘England in the 21st Century’
  • New joint working with National Parks England and the National Association for AONBs
  • A new funding programme to support farmers to improve protected landscapes

It remains to be seen if these measures make any real impact upon our long suffering suffering wildlife. Here in Yorkshire the Dales, North Yorks Moors, Nidderdale & the North Yorks Moors are undeniably beautiful places to visit and all have their havens for wildlife, but there are also vast swathes of habitat in all of these areas that have become degraded over time from a combination of overgrazing, habitat loss, intensive farming practices and human disturbance. Will simply conserving the status of AONB upon the Yorkshire Wolds really improve it's wildlife, or will it just drive up visitor numbers?

Great Givendale, Yorkshire Wolds  Warter Wold, Yorkshire Wolds

The proposed measures are a start of course but there are many who believe more direct action needs to be taken to really make a difference. The RSPB have responded to the government's proposals with the headline statement  'we need more nature in our protected landscapes, not just more protected landscapes'  and the Wildlife Trusts in general saying “If this Government is serious about its ambition to leave the environment in a better state for the next generation, it must properly fund meaningful action to restore habitats across our protected landscapes. What is needed, more than anything, is to address the issues raised in the Glover Review and restructuring and renaming will potentially divert time and resources away from doing so.”

There were 27 recommendations coming out of the Glover Review and at the time the RSPB, Wildlife Trusts and Woodland Trust identified 10 as being key to the recovery of nature in our 'protected' landscapes.

  1. More priority should be given to nature recovery and connecting people to nature in protected landscapes’ 
  2. Governance should be reformed, so protected landscapes are led by smaller groups of diverse people with the passion and expertise to make decisions for nature, climate and people. This needs legislation but the government could take a first step in the appointments it makes this year.
  3. Stronger duties are needed to deliver on landscapes’ purposes. Instead of just having ‘regard’ to them, relevant authorities should be required to ‘further’ these purposes and support the development and implementation of landscape management plans.
  4. A baseline is needed for the current state of nature in protected landscapes which should be regularly monitored. Evidence gaps should be identified and filled.
  5. SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time based) targets and five year milestones should be used to track how protected landscapes are delivering against the commitments to recovering nature and connecting people to nature in the 25 year environment plan. And landscapes must be held accountable for delivery.
  6. Guidance, training and ongoing support is needed for landscapes’ boards and staff on how to lead the nation’s response to the nature and climate crises.
  7. Protected landscapes should be given sufficient resources to ensure there is the staff capacity and ability to lead ambitious large scale projects. Funding to AONBs should be significantly increased so they can deliver the aims of their Colchester Declaration for Nature Recovery and more funding should be given to National Parks to do much more for nature, climate and people.
  8. Protected landscapes should become exemplars for restoring, expanding and connecting large areas of semi-natural habitat, as part of England’s Nature Recovery Network.
  9. Protected landscapes should be resourced to support the transition to the new Environmental Land Management Schemes by securing dedicated advice to farmers on nature-friendly practices.
  10. Authorities managing protected landscapes need more support to reach out to everyone, especially under-represented groups.

I'm very familiar with the gently sloping chalk hills of the Yorkshire Wolds, I live a stone's throw away and lucky enough to gaze out upon them every day. To me it's already a beautiful place and I've spent many a happy day wandering around places such as Givendale, Leavening Brow and Millington Pastures. Could it be improved? Yes of course - there's too much intensive farming going on for a start, but will AONB status if granted solve this?.I remain to be convinced. Yorkshire Wildlife Trust have already worked hard with local land owners to improve selected patches of the Wolds, restoring dew ponds and enhancing the chalk streams at Skerne Wetlands for example, creating environments in which wildlife can thrive again. We need more of this please. If AONB status and the other measures, such as the proposed funding scheme to support farmers to improve protected landscapes, enable this to happen then all well and good, but it has to be meaningful, backed up with action and funding, and it has to happen now not in 5 years time when Wolds speciality species such as Barn Owls, Brook Lamprey and Brown Hares could be lost from these hills.

Intensive farming, yorkshire wolds  West Beck chalk stream, Yorkshire Wolds

Barn Owl, Millington Pastures, Yorkshire Wolds  Brown Hare, Yorkshire Wolds

Further reading / information

The Glover Landscapes Review

UK governments response statement to the Landscapes Review

RSPB's response to UK government statement

Wildlife Trust's response to UK government statement

The Wolds (Welcome to Yorkshire)

East Yorkshire top sites (Yorkshire's Wildlife)





Leave a Comment