Landscapes for Life
Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) are some of the UK’s most cherished and outstanding landscapes.
An Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) is exactly what it says it is – an outstanding landscape considered so precious that it is protected for the nation. No other country in the world has Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty – it is a uniquely British designation.
An Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is designated and protected under the 1949 National Parks and Access to Countryside Act. As part of the reconstruction of the UK after WW2, this Act improved access to the countryside, addressed public rights of way and provided the framework for the creation of National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. There are 46 AONBs in total across England, Wales and Northern Ireland and they all have the same level of protection as National Parks.
AONBs are chosen because of the outstanding natural beauty across their area as a whole, and because an area is of such significance that its conservation and enhancement can best be met through designating it an AONB. The AONB designation means that public bodies’ policies and decisions must focus on the conservation and enhancement of the landscape. The Countryside and Rights of Way (CRoW) Act 2000 also places a duty on all public bodies, from parish and community councils to public utility companies, to have regard for the purposes of the AONB.
The Wye Valley was designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in 1971, recognising and protecting the special features that make it one of the finest lowland landscapes in Britain. These special features include its dramatic limestone gorges and native woodlands, its impressive geology, its rich history of hillforts, castles and the first Cistercian Abbey in Wales, and its wildlife (which includes 25% of Britain’s population of lesser horseshoe bats).