Landscape Character

What is Landscape Character?

The physical geology and topography, combined with the green cover, are major contributors to the structure and the aesthetic aspects of landscapes. These have combined with cultural, historic, social and economic infleunces over centuries to create the unique and distinctive character of the National Landscape.

Please see our Landscapes and Planning publications page for more information on the Cranborne Chase Landscape Character Assessment.

It is with this definition in mind that the AONB approaches its task of enhancing and conserving the landscape.

Landscapes and landscape character are more than just topography

They include the interactions of generations of people who have lived, worked, or passed through, including the cultural as well as physical attributes, and the living wildlife, the aesthetic, and the productive.

Landscapes are more than three dimensional, they change daily and seasonally, they respond to the weather, some have a greater proportion of hard and constructed elements whilst in others the soft and semi-natural predominate. Landscapes are multi-faceted and are perceived and valued in different ways by individuals and communities.

Diagram showing links between Landscape Character and Physical, Human, Aesthetic & other factors

Why assess Landscape Character?

In order to protect Cranborne Chase National Landscape for the future, we need an accurate description of the landscape as it is now; both in terms of its physical attributes and the forces that are directing landscape change. This is known as Landscape Character Assessment (LCA).

Landscape Character Assessment includes physical landform, ecological, aesthetics and human settlement aspects along with an understanding of how landscape is used and has evolved. This process helps us identify and appreciate the character of strips of landscape, locally distinctive features and the sense of place of the individual locality.

Landscape Character Assessment seeks to identify local landscape features, the broad character of a locality, indigenous materials and all the other elements that contribute to the particular sense of place.

LCA therefore presents an integrated view of the landscape and includes all the features which contibute to the special and distinctive character of the AONB. It plays a crucial part in enabling the AONB Partnership to conserve and enhance the National Landscape.

Geology of Cranborne Chase National Landscape

One hundred million years ago this Area was covered by a shallow sea. The Gault Clay and Upper Greensand that we see in the Vale of Wardour formed the sea bed. The skeletons of invertebrates that teemed in the warm waters slowly accreted to form the impure Lower Chalk strata and then the harder, purer Upper Chalk layers. It is this chalk rock that determines the landscape character of the AONB.Map of the geology of the Cranborne Chase AONB

During the twenty million years of chalk accretion, the silicate skeletons of sponges were concentrated in voids and formed flint. This hard but frangible rock was extensively used by the very first humans to settle the Area and is still a characteristic building material in the villages.

During successive glaciations, when the porous chalk was frozen into an impermeable state, rivers followed faults in the rock and eroded the valleys and steep scarp slopes. The dry valleys and folded landform of the Downs date from this period. The rivers cut down through the chalk to expose the Greensand and Kimmeridge Clay of the Vale of Wardour and the Chilmark Stone that was used to build Salisbury Cathedral.

Landscape Character of the National Landscape

This National Landscape is characterised by a diversity of landscapes and these variations and differences are represented by eight broad Landscape Character Types . Each of these landscape types can be futher sub-divided into component geographically specific Landscape Character Areas.

The Landscape Character Assessment is complemented by a AONB wide Historic Landscape Characterisation.

An independent Landscape Character Assessment was undertaken in 2003 and a compressed version can be downloaded below:


A higher resolution version gives the maps greater clarity:

Planning and Landscapes Booklet

This booklet is an abbreviated, easy to read, version of the Integrated Landscape Character Assessment 2003. It was prepared for the 2006 Planning seminar and summarises the key landscape characteristics of the 8 Landscape Types and 15 Landscape Areas, focussing particularly on the character of the settlements.