This area is characterised by a wide coastal plain which extends from Barton-upon-Humber in the north, across to Grimsby at the mouth of the Humber and south to Skegness. The area is bounded by the North Sea along its eastern edge and by the Lincolnshire Wolds to the west. The wide coastal plain incorporates three distinctively different but closely interconnected areas which run broadly parallel with the edge of the Wolds. To the west is the Middle Marsh which comprises a softly undulating arable landscape with a greater number of woodlands and hedgerows than other areas. To the east lies the Outmarsh, an open landscape of arable land, mixed with rich pasture divided by narrow dykes. The Outmarsh has changed in character – and was once as grassy as Romney Marsh or the Somerset Levels. It has gradually turned into an area which is predominately arable, particularly since effective pump drainage was introduced in the 2nd half of the 20th century, following the 1953 floods.
Finally, there is the open, wild and ever-changing landscape of the coast itself, which is subject to continuous erosion and accretion. It has extensive stretches of intertidal habitats including salt marsh, coastal dunes and wetlands. To the north, the offshore gradient is so slight that at low tide extensive sand flats and mudflats are exposed. Half of the coast is internationally recognised for its biodiversity and in particular the bird species that it supports. There are adjacent estuaries; to the north the Humber Estuary and to the south, the Wash and the area is of international significance as a Ramsar site, with half of the National Character Area coast designated as a Special Protection Area for the large flocks of overwintering migratory and breeding birds. Several National Nature Reserves follow this part of the Lincolnshire and some key species exist, including an important breeding colony of grey seals. In the south, Gibraltar Point, at the entrance to the Wash, is internationally designated for its area of dunes, salt marsh and shingle.
Most settlement is concentrated on the coast, around Grimsby and the resorts of Skegness, Mablethorpe and Cleethorpes, whose fine sandy beaches and low rainfall have attracted holiday-makers for generations. The extensive caravan parks, particularly around Skegness, are very distinct from the rest of the area. There are no cities within the NCA; however, the settlement pattern is very built up around Grimsby which is an important trading route at the mouth of the Humber and was once the largest fishing port in the country. Southwards from Grimsby the settlement pattern is dispersed while inland there are nucleated settlement patterns, with many smaller villages and the historic market towns of Louth and Alford.
Much of the agricultural land of the Outmarsh has been reclaimed from the sea over many centuries. Food production is important within the NCA with cereals, root crops, oilseed and very small amount of vegetables grown. There is also mixed farming and pastoral land grazed by cattle and sheep with areas of grazing marsh.
A complex series of rivers flow slowly east across the plain to the sea, some natural, some manmade, such as the many drains and ditches which combine to form important networks linking with other semi-natural habitats. Several rivers, such as the Great Eau, terminate as raised embanked water carriers. The chalk streams which occur are important for their unique biodiversity. The underlying chalk bedrock acts as a major aquifer, supplying water to homes and industry in the wider region.
The investment in coastal protection has been significant on this part of the east coast and includes hard defences, the Lincshore scheme introduced in 1994 and the maintenance of dunes.
The rising sea levels, when combined with river flooding, can potentially cause major flood events in the low-lying areas and there is a need for combined action in coastal areas to address flood risk. Major flooding has occurred in the area and fluvial flooding is managed by a network of over 30 pumping stations across the NCA. Addressing and understanding the natural coastal processes is a real challenge, particularly where coastal development exists.