Skip navigation

North Pennines Assets and Attributes

Landscape Designations

The greater part of the North Pennines is designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). The lower dales and moorland areas in the south-east lying outside of the AONB are designated as Areas of High Landscape Value (AHLV) in Local Plans.

  • View Landscape Designations map

International Nature Conservation Designations

Large tracts of the Pennine moors are designated as a Special Protection Area (SPA), The Moorhouse and Upper Teesdale NNR and Bollihope, Pikestone and Egglestone and Woodland Fells are designated as Special Areas for Conservation (SAC) The NNR is also designated as an International Biosphere Reserve.

  • View International Nature Conservation Designations Map

National and Local Nature Conservation Designations

All SPA and SAC moorlands are designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), as are other areas of moorland, wetland, old quarries and ancient woods in gills and ravines. A larger number of sites containing similar habitats are designated as County Wildlife Sites (now known as Local Wildlife Sites).

  • View National and Local Nature Conservation Designations map

Biodiversity Action Plan Priority Habitats and Species

The landscape is important for a large number of national and local Biodiversity Action Plan priority habitats and species.

Priority habitats in the Durham Biodiversity Action Plan (DBAP) represented in the North Pennines include:

  • Ancient Semi Natural woodland
  • Other Broadleaved Woodland
  • Native Hedgerows
  • Parkland
  • Scrub
  • Veteran Trees
  • Wet Woodland
  • Wood Pasture
  • Exposed and Streams
  • Blanket Bog and Upland Wet Heath
  • Calaminarian Grassland
  • Species-rich Upland Acid Grassland
  • Upland Calcareous Grassland
  • Upland Dry Heath
  • Upland Hay Meadows
  • Upland Scree and Rock Habitats
  • Early Succesional Brownfield land
  • Road Verges of Conservation Importance
  • Waxcap Grasslands

Priority species in the Durham Biodiversity Action Plan (DBAP) found in the North Pennines include:

  • Badger
  • Bats
  • Brown Hare
  • Hedgehog
  • Otter
  • Red Squirrel
  • Water Vole
  • Barn Owl
  • Black Grouse
  • Curlew
  • Hen Harrier
  • House Sparrow
  • Lapwing
  • Linnet
  • Merlin
  • Nightjar
  • Redshank
  • Reed Bunting
  • Ring Ouzel
  • Skylark
  • Snipe
  • Song thrush
  • Spotted Fly-catcher
  • Starling
  • Tree Sparrow
  • Adder
  • Common Lizard
  • Slow Worm
  • Eel
  • Salmon
  • Trout
  • Dark Green Fritillary
  • Dingy Skipper
  • Glow Worm
  • Grayling
  • Green Hairstreak
  • Northern Dart (moth)
  • Round-mouthed Whorl Snail - vertigo genesii
  • White-clawed Crayfish
  • Juniper
  • Ladies Mantles
  • Pale Bristle Moss
  • Yellow Marsh Saxifrage

Habitat Networks

Semi-natural habitats occupy a large proportion of the North Pennines. Networks of heath, grassland, mire and bog in particular are extensive and continuous. Locally they may be in poor condition which can affect their value as networks for some species. The woodland network is more fragmented, with fairly robust riparian corridors of woodland in the lower dales and a more heavily fragmented pattern of widely dispersed and poorly connected small woodlands in the middle and upper dale. Individual woods may be in poor condition through overgrazing or re-stocking which can affect their value as networks for some species, as can their generally small scale. The overall pattern of habitat distribution closely reflects the topography, with most woodland habitats found along the incised corridors or rivers and streams, and heath, bog, mire and grassland habitats on the higher ridges with often poor connectivity between them.

  • View Habitat Network Map

Ancient Semi-natural Woodlands

The middle and lower dales contain many ancient semi-natural woodlands, often in narrow daleside gills, on the banks of rivers and streams, or in the deeper ravines of the main rivers.

  • View Ancient Woodland Map

Earth Heritage Designations 

The North Pennines AONB was designated as the first European Geopark by UNESCO in 2003, reflecting the importance of its geology and its role in the development of the sciences of geology and mineralogy. There are a number of Geological/Geomorphological Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) in the North Pennines ranging from quarries and lead mines to caves and other limestone features. A large number of sites are designated as County Geological/Geomorphological Sites (now known as Local Geological Sites). These range from old mines and quarries to glacial features including drumlins and melt water channels.  Moking Hurth Cave is designated as a Regionally Important Geological Site (RIGS).

  • View Earth Heritage Designation Map

Archaeological Sites and Monuments

The North Pennines is rich in archaeological remains from the Neolithic period onwards, many of which are recorded in the Durham Sites and Monuments Record (SMR). Scheduled Ancient Monuments range from bronze age ritual landscapes and cairn fields, medieval sheilings, iron workings and fortified dwellings, to industrial remains from the lead industry.

  • View Archaeological Sites and Monuments Map

Built Heritage   

Many of the settlements in the North Pennines are designated as Conservation Areas - these include villages of essentially agricultural origins and later settlements that developed with lead mining and quarrying. The landscape of the dales is particularly rich in listed buildings, principally farmsteads, field barns, and industrial buildings and structures.

  • View Built Heritage map

Access and Recreation

The North Pennines is a recreational resource of regional significance. Tourism is increasingly important to the local economy, with facilities like Killhope Lead Mining Museum, Bowlees Visitor Centre and attractions like High Force together with a range of opportunities for active and passive recreation.

The dales have a well-developed network of public rights of way - many a legacy of the mining industry - and quiet minor roads, which make it very accessible to walkers and cyclists. It is crossed by national trails including the C2C and the Pennine Way, and regional trails like the Weardale Way and the Teesdale Way.  Extensive tracts of open moorland are designated as access land.

  • View Recreation and Tourism Map

Water Resources  

The dales contain a number of reservoirs taking their water from extensive moorland catchments and serving settlements in the lowlands to the east through water abstraction from the lower reaches of the Tees, Wear and Derwent. Water quality is generally high with some localised contamination from discharges from abandoned mines and acid run-off from peat moorland

  • View Water Resources Map

Agricultural Land Classification

Agricultural land in the dales is generally Grade 4 (poor) with pockets of Grade 3b (moderate) on the floors of the lower dales. The poorer soils of the moors and moorland fringes are generally classified as Grade 5 (very poor).

  • View Agricultural Land Classification Map

Further Information