A Special Place

The Shropshire Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty was designated in 1958 and covers an area of 802 square kilometres, extending from the Wrekin to the Clun Forest and from the Stiperstones across to the Clee Hills. The Shropshire Hills AONB is nationally important, and its key special qualities are the diversity and contrast of its landscape, its hills, farmland, woods and rivers, the important geology, wildlife and heritage they hold, plus scenic quality and views, tranquillity, culture and opportunities for enjoyment.

Caer Caradoc and Lawley from the Burway by P King

Not just a pretty view…

Natural beauty is not just scenery and wildlife, but includes geology, air, soil and water, cultural heritage and tranquillity. AONBs also have a purpose to promote sustainable development – activities achieving economic, social and environmental benefits in combination.

People and Place

The Shropshire Hills is a living, working area.  Keeping vibrant communities goes hand in hand with maintaining the landscape.  AONB purposes also say that “account should be taken of the needs of agriculture, forestry, and other rural industries and of the economic and social needs of local communities.” In addition, “the demand for recreation should be met so far as this is consistent” with the other purposes.

What’s special about the Shropshire Hills?

A landscape of diversity and contrast created by varied geology, the Shropshire Hills provide a dramatic link between the Midlands and the Welsh mountains. Of the hills themselves, the craggy Stiperstones and Wrekin, the moorland plateau and valleys of the Long Mynd, the quarried Clee Hills, the wooded Wenlock Edge and the rolling Clun Forest all have their own character.

Centuries of farming have shaped the landscape. 70% of the AONB is grazing land, and below the moorland and rough grass hilltops and commons lies a patchwork of fields rich in hedgerows and veteran trees.  Ancient woodlands, wildflower meadows and orchards also survive, each habitat with its characteristic wildlife plants and invertebrates.  Red grouse, skylark and dormouse are among the great variety of birds and mammals.

The Rivers Clun, Teme and Onny, along with many smaller rivers and streams, are very unspoilt. Many are lined with alder, and home to important species such as freshwater crayfish and otter.

A rich heritage of hillforts, castles, mottes and Offa’s Dyke tell of centuries of border strife. Much of the pattern of dispersed settlement and small fields is very ancient.  Stone, brick and timbered buildings combine with the industrial relics of lead mining, quarrying and charcoal burning.  Off the beaten track, unspoilt and remote in the context of the West Midlands, the Shropshire Hills are a haven of tranquillity – peace and quiet, dark skies, and of high scenic and environmental quality.

From the town of Church Stretton to remote villages, strong and active communities are maintaining rural culture and traditions while adapting to changes. Opportunities for enjoyment and wellbeing are open to both locals and visitors through walks and outdoor activities which respect the area’s qualities.

For a more detailed description see Special Qualities.

What difference does the AONB designation make?

  • STRONGER PLANNING PROTECTION – The 37 AONBs in England and Wales have equal landscape value and protection to National Parks, but planning decisions remain with their local authorities.
  • MORE FUNDING FOR CONSERVATION – This includes specific funding for the AONB Partnership as well as targeting of other schemes such as farm conservation grants.
  • INVOLVING LOCAL PEOPLE – About 19,000 people live within the Shropshire Hills AONB, and many more live close by. Through events and community projects, and representation in decisions, local people share in the care and management of the area.

The vision for the AONB and co-ordinated action to conserve and enhance it is set out in the AONB Management Plan, which is a statutory document reviewed every five years and formally adopted by the local authorities.