Our Landscapes and Change

Landscapes are the interaction of natural features and processes with human activities.

Landscapes provide us with fields to grow food, woods for fuel and construction material, and the underground aquifers and streams provide us with water.

The elevation and exposure to wind, rain, and sun influence how well crops and woodlands can grow, and planting shelter belts can modify those effects.

The inherent structure and form of the landscapes impart aesthetic character, however human cultivation and planting modify those scenes, and in the grand parks and gardens the designs have focussed primarily on the aesthetics.

Landscape Sensitivity

Many of the elements that contribute to the distinctive and special character of the landscape of the CCWWD AONB are inherently fragile.

The AONB Partnership has therefore been looking at ways of recognisng and identifying this fragility through looking at Landscape Sensitivity as well as managing elements which contribute to key attributes of the landscape such as its tranquility, remoteness and lack of light pollution.

Landscapes are sensitive to many factors to a lesser or greater degree. Some crops create a change that lasts a few months, the planting or felling of a woodland can cause change that persists for decades, and built development can introduces changes that seem to last for ever. One of the roles of any AONB team is to assess potential changes and evaluate the impact of those changes. With that information it is then possible to advise on alternative options, less damaging locations, better integration with the landscapes, or, if appropriate, that the proposals would seriously conflict with the purposes of AONB designation.

The Sensitivity Report commissioned in 2007, focusing on the innate fragility or robustness of the landscape character areas of the AONB, and can be downloaded below:

Landscape Tranquillity

During 2005-2006 the CPRE (Campaign for the Protection of Rural England) with support from the Countryside Agency commissioned a map of tranquil and non tranquil areas across the nation.

These studies investigated peoples’ perceptions of tranquillity, factors that make a place tranquil or non-tranquil. The whole country was assessed for 44 attributes of tranquillity, and the data mapped using a 500 metre grid. For ease of presentation, the scores were converted to a spectrum of colours, with dark green representing most tranquil and dark red least tranquil. This complicated process was undertaken by Northumbria University in collaboration of the University of Newcastle, using a sophisticated GIS to handle the various databases and layers.

AONB investigation into tranquillity

With the support of the South Wiltshire branch of the CPRE the AONB undertook a study to identify the factors contributing to tranquillity, or loss of tranquillity, in this AONB. Attention could then be given to actions to restore or enhance tranquillity in the AONB, both generally and at specific locations. The report produced from this study can be downloaded below:

AONB tranquillity ground truthing exercise

The Ground Truthing project carried out by the AONB aims to enhance the understanding of the tranquillity factors in relation to the specific areas covered by individual squares. Put another way, it seeks to establish how accurately the tranquillity assessments derived remotely from national datasets reflect the actual situations. The report can be downloaded below:

Dark Night Skies

The AONB Partnership has recognised the significance of Light Pollution within the AONB. Two national datasets showing light pollution are available from 1993 and 2000 which demonstrate the spread of light pollution across the AONB and the general loss of dark night skies. These images can be viewed on the CPRE Website.

Contributory factors to light pollution are street and highway lighting, and the sideways and upward dispersion of light from a variety of sources. The latter can be tackled through the use of properly shielded modern light fittings and the AONB regularly advise on their use when commenting on planning applications. In connection with highway lights we seek to influence the highway authorities’ asset management and replacement plans to include light units that minimise pollution. That includes encouraging the use of “natural” light rather than the all too frequent orange sodium lights.

In 2007, we commissioned a report on Light Pollution in the AONB, which can be viewed below:

Rural Lanes and Roads

The Reclaiming our Rural Highways project in the Dorset AONB has indicated the scope of the issues regarding the urbaniastion of rural roads and the loss of their essential countryside characteristics. The project looked at ways to reduce the clutter of signs and other artefacts, and to find means of improving driver behaviour without adding to those artefacts or creating further clutter.

This joint Dorset County Council and Dorset AONB initiative is establishing a protocol to guide the management of rural roads in harmony with landscape character and local distinctiveness and sense of place. This clearly has wider relevance and this AONB is actively involved with our colleagues extending the principles of reclaiming our rural highways throughout this AONB.

B3081 Landscape Appraisal

The B3081 runs from the junction between Boynes Lane and Shaftesbury Lane at Cann Common near Shaftesbury southwards to the junction with the A354 at Handley Hill. It is an attractive rural road which crosses the Wiltshire – Dorset border. It is located entirely within the Cranborne Chase AONB.

In 2009 the AONB commissioned The Landscape Practice to undertake a landscape appraisal of the view from the road to make an assessment of the landscape characteristics of the route and to record its current condition.

The following study provides an appraisal of the historic and archaeological characteristics of the B3081:

Climate Change

The current indications are that in this part of the country we won’t be directly affected by changes in level for quite a long time! However, summers are likely to be drier and hotter, winters milder and wetter, and generally the weather will be stormier, with extreme conditions being less unusual.

That suggests that the climate of the AONB will have greater similarities to that of the Mediterranean, so the composition of our woodlands may change to include species that are more drought tolerant. The same is likely to apply to farm crops. Furthermore, the emphasis on biofuels may lead to larger acreages of oilseed crops. Our winterbournes may flow well in winter but their valleys may be significantly drier in summer, and so loose their year round green and lush appearance.

Natural England have undertaken a pilot study to look at local responses to climate change required to safeguard the natural environment and our enjoyment of it, focussing on the National Character Area ‘Dorset Downs and Cranborne Chase’. This report can be downloaded from the Natural England Website.