All the way back in 1945, the Dower Report was published. Initially written due to growing public support for the creation of National Parks, the report indicated the need to protect certain naturally beautiful landscapes however some of these areas would be unsuitable parks mainly due to size and lack of “wildness”. In 1947 the Hobhouse Report was published and together, these reports recommended preserving a number of Britain’s finest landscapes “for the nation’s benefit”. 46 of these sites were then developed into Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and 15 were designated National Park which we can enjoy across England, Wales and Ireland.
The primary purpose of the designation of AONBs is to conserve the natural beauty of the landscape and enhance it. These sites are delicate, as are the ecosystems which depend on them and need careful attention in order to ensure the landscape and wildlife thrive. The two secondary purposes are to make sure people can experience quiet enjoyment of the countryside and to have regard for the interests of those who live and work in these areas.
There are 33 AONBs in England and 4 in Wales, with 1 area - the Wye Valley AONB - which straddles the two countries, and 8 in Northern Ireland. The AONBs cover just under one fifth of the UK and yet they offer a diverse array of landscapes and wildlife. 3 AONB can be found in East Anglia, and we are lucky enough to enjoy 2 of them in Suffolk - the Suffolk Coast and Heaths and Dedham Vale.
Suffolk Coast and Heaths
This low lying coastal landscape covers 403 square kilometers of our fair county, stretching from Felixstowe Ferry all the way up to Benacre. Here you will find shingle beaches, cliffs, marshland, forests and farmland which make Suffolk a unique and varied place to visit. Largely spared from modern developments, the countryside here is unspoilt and tranquil with a very distinctive character. Suffolk Coast and Heaths is also one of the most important wildlife areas in the UK, being home to no less than three National Nature Reserves, several Sites of Scientific Interest and, perhaps most famously, home to RSPB Minsmere.
Iconic lowland English countryside awaits you in Dedham Vale. Made famous by artists such as Gainsborough and Constable, the old world charm of surrounding villages and of course the landscapes hold strong today. A smaller AONB at roughly 90 kilometers square, there is by no means a shortage of delights to enjoy in Dedham Vale. The rolling farmland and ancient woodland make this area incredible picturesque. Sitting on the Suffolk/ Essex border, the hedgerows and wildflowers meadows here are some of England’s most precious and vulnerable pastoral landscapes. The quality of landscape in the rest of the Stour Valley is often as high as it is in Dedham Vale and this AONB may be extended in the future.