Natural England - 145 Exmoor

145 Exmoor



Exmoor National Character Area (NCA) is predominantly a landscape of upland plateaux of Devonian sandstones and slates terminating in the north at the Bristol Channel with a spectacular cliff coastline. It lies across the counties of Devon and Somerset. The Devonian geological time period was first described and recorded in association with this area. To the west the area terminates at Barnstaple/Bideford Bay and the Taw and Torridge Estuary and to the east at the Vale of Taunton Deane.

The Exmoor area contains sparse settlement with centres at Braunton, Ilfracombe, Lynton and the western edges of Minehead, all associated with the coast, and inland at Barnstaple, Dunster, Dulverton and Bampton.

The entirety of Exmoor National Park lies within the area and accounts for over 50% of the NCA. A further 5.6% is part of the North Devon AONB. Upland heath, blanket bog (Exmoor Heaths SAC) and upland sessile oak woodland (Exmoor and Quantock Oak Woods SAC) areas are recognised as internationally important, as is the largest area of sand dunes in England (Braunton Burrows SAC). Braunton Burrows also lies at the heart of the UNESCO North Devon Biosphere Reserve encompassing much of the western end of the area. 16% (20,352 ha) of the NCA is designated as SSSI, for example Exmoor Coastal Heaths, Taw/Torridge Estuary.

The ‘wildness’ and remoteness of the upland landscape inspired the likes of R D Blackmore (Lorna Doone) and Coleridge (The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Kubla Khan) and continues to inspire visitors and residents alike. Signs of 8,000 years of human occupation can be found in the landscape of the Exmoor area. In combination with a wealth of wildlife and many surviving traditions, this is one of the country’s most important cultural landscapes.

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