The AONB’s intimate green and silver landscape rises from the shores of Morecambe Bay, with wide views over the Kent Estuary to the Lake District. Despite its small scale, the AONB shows a unique interweaving of contrasting countryside.
The area is characterised by small scale limestone hills rising to less than 200m in height, fine deciduous woodlands and valleys which form sheltered agricultural land. The inter-relationship of salt-marsh, limestone cliffs and reclaimed mosses (peat bogs), at or about sea level, contrast markedly with limestone pasture, rock outcrops and limestone pavements at a higher level. The distribution of copses and hedgerows and the pattern of limestone walls create a strong feeling of enclosure, and are important elements in the landscape.
The limestone geology, varied soil types and vegetation, added to a notably mild climate at this northerly latitude, makes this AONB extremely important as a diverse natural habitat. Unimproved pasture and the exposed limestone outcrops are rich in rare butterflies and flowers. Between the limestone hills there are drift deposits and estuarine silts and clays which, close to the estuaries, support nationally important lowland raised mires. Woodlands are a distinctive element in the landscape with significant areas of ancient semi-natural woodland.
Large areas are owned by the National Trust (www.nationaltrust.org.uk/main/), English Nature (www.english-nature.org.uk/) and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (www.rspb.org.uk/) (RSPB) as well as local wildlife trusts and conservation organisations. The reed and willow swamps of RSPB Leighton Moss (www.rspb.org.uk/reserves/guide/l/leightonmoss/) are a major breeding site for marshland birds which include bearded tits, marsh harrier and the rare bittern. The sands and salt-marshes of Morecambe Bay are internationally important for wading birds and wildfowl. Parts of the AONB are of recognised national and international importance for wildlife.
Farming is, in the main, livestock, with sheep being grazed on the higher rough pastures and cattle and sheep farmed on the reclaimed valley soils. Some active quarrying remains and a small portion of the AONB is commercial conifer plantation. Private land ownership is concentrated on two large estates. Arnside, Silverdale and Warton are the main centres of population. The AONB is a popular destination for quiet outdoor recreation, caravanning and day visits.
Visit the Arnside and Silverdale AONB website (www.arnsidesilverdaleaonb.org.uk/) for further information.
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