Natural England - 148 Devon Redlands

148 Devon Redlands

Devon Redlands full profile cover

Summary

The Devon Redlands National Character Area (NCA) has a very strong, unified character. The underlying red sandstone and consequent red soil dominate the landscape through ploughed fields, cliffs and exposures, and are visually evident in the traditional stone and cob farmsteads, hamlets and villages that are scattered across the area. Not only does the soil visually characterise the area but its fertility also makes it the agricultural heart of Devon. Mixed agriculture has shaped this landscape since medieval times, an era that left a dense pattern of deep and narrow lanes imprinted in the landscape. The gently rolling hills that feature across the NCA support a network of hedgerows enclosing relatively small fields that are either grazed or under arable cultivation. Hedgerow trees and small copses often give a wooded appearance to the hills. The valleys in between are flat bottomed and open into extensive flood plains across the central part of the Redlands. Here, more ‘shrubby’ hedgerows or fences enclose larger arable or grazed fields.

Rivers have created the topography that we see today and they remain as key landscape features. The core of the Devon Redlands is low lying, with land rising around the periphery, except to the south where it gives way to the coast. Consequently, most of the rivers rise in higher, adjoining NCAs and flow from north to south to the coast, often through estuaries that are internationally and nationally important for wildlife. The coastal strip of this NCA, now partially inscribed as a World Heritage Site for its natural attributes, has significant Victorian influence, with railways, promenades and piers for seaside visitors. The area is still a popular visitor destination with access along the coast facilitated by the South West Coast Path National Trail.

Land in the west of the NCA rises to the flat, flint-topped Haldon Hills, now mainly under coniferous plantation with some remnant lowland heath. These hills form a prominent landscape feature which is visible across the Redlands and beyond. They provide a distinctive landscape setting for the Roman city of Exeter, now a regional centre with a significant amount of planned growth to the east. The character of this part of the NCA is fast changing. Land in the east of the NCA rises to the East Devon Pebblebed Heaths, an area of extensive open access lowland heath, designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest and part of the East Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

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