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Time for the Sandstone Ridge’s Natural Beauty to be recognised

Peter Raynes
By Peter Raynes
9th April 2019

In 2018, the Government launched a 25 year plan for the environment and within this a commitment to review the existing Areas of Outstanding Beauty (ANOB). Any area which achieves this can expect better planning protection, a higher profile for tourism and funding for environmental projects. It is a prize worth campaigning for.

The idea for the AONB designation was first put forward by John Dower in his 1945 Report on Protected Landscapes and National Parks in England and Wales. Dower proposed there was need for protection of certain beautiful landscapes which were unsuitable as national parks owing to their small size and lack of wildness. Dower’s recommendation was eventually embodied in the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 as the AONB designation

There are four AONBs in the North West Region; the Forest of Bowland in Lancashire; the Solway Coast in Cumbria and Arnside & Silverdale which sits on the Cumbria/Lancashire Border. However, our Cheshire Sandstone ridge, which was original considered for this status, was not created. Indeed it was the only AONB proposed in the North West that was not included in the Act.

Last year the case for the AONB was again put forward by the Sandstone Ridge Trust. Natural England looks at six criteria for potential AONBs and it is no surprise that the Sandstone Ridge has been considered before as it meets these so clearly.

  • landscape quality, where natural or man-made landscape is good quality
  • scenic quality, such as striking landforms
  • relative wildness, such as distance from housing or having few roads
  • relative tranquillity, where natural sounds, such as streams or birdsong are predominant
  • natural heritage features, such as distinctive geology or species and habitat
  • cultural heritage, which can include the built environment that makes the area unique, such as archaeological remains or historic parkland

As a popular walking destination for many readers (and indeed, the author!), listing such features is a simple task; the Sandstone Ridge Hill Forts, Beeston Castle, many dramatic sandstone outcrops, Delamere Forest, Peckforton Castle, Bickerton Hill and many more, all linked by a total of 368 miles of footpaths.

I would recommend readers to look at the excellent work being carried out by the Sandstone Ridge Trust: their website is

Becca Nelson