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North Pennines Trends and Pressures

The landscape is generally seen as being one of slow change with a high degree of continuity with the past.  This is partly because it has escaped the more conspicuous changes brought about by development and agricultural intensification in the settled lowlands, and partly because many of the changes that affect the upland landscape - like the decline of heather moorlands or upland hay meadows - are very gradual or piecemeal.


  • Changes in agriculture over the last 50 years or so have led to the decline of traditional landscape features such as dry stone walls, field barns and hedges and the improvement of hay meadows and pastures. Traditional agricultural practices are supported in the Pennine Dales ESA's. Outside of the ESA's pressures for intensification or extensification continue.
  • The extent and quality of heather moorland has declined with increased stocking densities. Substantial areas are now covered with species poor 'white moor' of moor mat grass.
  • Moorland drainage has led to the erosion or degradation of peat in places. In addition to the damage to peatland habitats this has affected water quality with increased peat solids both in suspension and in sediments in watercourses.
  • Semi-natural woodlands occur as isolated features. Many have little active management and are often grazed through by livestock which inhibits natural regeneration. Juniper woodland is locally diminishing in its extent under grazing pressure.
  • Dry stone walls are well maintained in places but neglected and becoming derelict in others - particularly the moorland fringes and dale heads.
  • Hedgerows are unmanaged in places, and particularly in the upland fringes and lower dales, and are locally in progressive decline.
  • The diversity of grasslands has diminished under the impacts of re-seeding, conversion from hay to silage, and increased stocking densities.
  • The stock of field and hedgerow trees is slowly declining. There is a very low level of recruitment of younger trees and particularly in walled landscapes.
  • Mineral extraction has had a substantial impact on the landscape and has left a legacy of dereliction in places. Active mineral workings often occupy prominent sites and can be visually intrusive. The lorry traffic they generate can have a strong presence on narrow rural roads
  • Relics of the mining and quarrying industry are an important part of the character and cultural heritage of the North Pennines. Many relic features, particularly abandoned buildings and structures, are in physical decline.
  • The development of major reservoirs in many of the dales in the late C19th and C20th has had a substantial impact on their character.  Draw down zones can be intrusive when water levels are low.
  • The development of commercial forestry in the moorland fringes in the C20th introduced large-scale plantations into formerly open moorland landscapes. Plantations are dominated by Sitka Spruce and are often poorly integrated visually into the wider landscape.
  • The strong vernacular character of older villages and buildings has been weakened in places by more recent development and by the use of newer building materials. Farms and agricultural buildings are increasingly being converted to residential use as agricultural employment declines.
  • The North Pennines has a very high potential wind energy resource and there is pressure for the development of wind farms on elevated ridges.
  • Communications masts can be prominent and intrusive features on elevated ridges.
  •  Public access to open country has brought new pressures to moorland landscapes.
  • Tourism is increasingly important to the local economy. This brings continued pressure for new facilities like caravan sites and increased traffic on local roads and in the dales villages.

Further Information