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North Pennines AONB

North Pennines AONB logo

The North Pennines is one of England’s most special places – a peaceful, unspoilt landscape with a rich history and vibrant natural beauty.

Tumbling waterfalls, sweeping moorland views, dramatic dales, stone-built villages, snaking stonewalls and friendly faces – the North Pennines has all this and more!

The designation of the North Pennines as an AONB was confirmed in 1988 and at 1983km2, it is the second largest of the AONBs. One of the most remote and unspoilt places in England, it lies between the National Parks of the Yorkshire Dales and Northumberland, with the former West Durham Coalfield to the east and the Eden Valley to the west.

Beneath your feet

The impressive shapes and forms the land takes in the North Pennines, from High Force on the River Tees to the sweeping U-shaped valley of High Cup Gill above Dufton, are the product of millions of years of geological processes. The worldwide significance of the geology found here is recognised by the fact that the North Pennines AONB is Britain’s first European Geopark and a founding member of the Global Geoparks Network.

Past times

About 12,000 people live in the North Pennines today – less than half the number who lived here 140 years ago in the heyday of the lead mining industry. The rise and fall of mining has left an indelible imprint on the landscape, not just in terms of the physical remains but also in the pattern of local settlement. The social history of the miner-farmers is also an intriguing element that contributes to the many chapters in the story of the North Pennines.

People and places

The character of the North Pennines landscape is inseparable from the people and places found here. The differing nature of settlements, from the distinctive red sandstone villages at the foot of the North Pennines escarpment to the white farms and barns of the Raby Estate in Teesdale, has a significant impact on landscape character. Local traditions and other intangible elements also come together with wildlife, geology, soils and climate to form the essence of the North Pennines landscape. Past, present and future generations of people are also fundamental to an appreciation of the area’s rich cultural heritage.

Plants and animals

The area is famous for the variety and profusion of plants and animals found here. Eighty percent of the AONB benefits from the continuation of less intensive and more traditional farming practices, which means that large tracts of the area are still a haven for wildlife.

In the North Pennines you’ll find:

  • 40% of the UK’s upland hay meadows
  • 30% of England’s upland heathland and 27% of its blanket bog
  • 80% of England’s black grouse
  • 36% of the AONB designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest
  • Red squirrels, otters and rare arctic alpine plants
  • 22,000 pairs of breeding wading birds
  • England’s biggest waterfall – High Force in Teesdale