The Vale of York is an area of relatively flat, low-lying land surrounded by higher land to the north, east and west. High-quality soils across most of the National Character Area (NCA) mean that arable cultivation is the predominant land use, although some pig and dairy farming takes place in the western parts of the NCA.
A key feature of the NCA is the rivers that drain surrounding higher land and run southwards through the Vale on towards the Humber basin. Natural flood plain habitats and associated species are still found within the Lower Derwent Valley (designated as a Special Protection Area, Special Area of Conservation and Ramsar site) although, like other flood plains, this area is threatened due to water quality issues.
The City of York, a settlement that has been an important focus since Roman times, sits at the centre of this NCA. The prominent York Minster can be seen from lower-lying surrounding countryside and, together with the city walls, provides the setting for the historic city. Food and water provision and the regulation of water flow and water quality are key ecosystem services provided by this NCA.
Flooding affects a number of communities within the NCA, as they are within the lower stretches of the river flood plains. More than 7,000 properties are at risk of flooding in York, Bishopthorpe, Haxby and Strensall from the River Ouse catchment.
There are opportunities to restore wetland habitat within river corridors to alleviate fast water flows (for example working with land managers on the River Foss to slow rates of floods that are generated in York) and aid climate adaptation mitigation. Restoration of river systems will also maintain and improve natural soil fertility for productive agriculture, improve the ecological networks and strengthen the ability of biodiversity to adapt to current – and future – pressures. A key challenge will be to establish sustainable land management practices that safeguard and strengthen the fertile soils needed for arable cultivation while also providing sustainable income for land managers.
28 Vale of York (NE367)