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A Landscape Strategy for Lancashire - Landscape Character Assessment

Moorland Fringe

Location map of Moorland Fringe - Character Areas Moorland Fringe
Character Areas

4a    Trawden Fringe
4b    Rossendale Moorland Fringe
4c    Blackburn Moorland Fringe
4d    Bowland Gritstone Fringes
4e    Bowland Limestone Fringes
4f     Longridge Fell Fringes
4g    South Pendle Fringe
4h    Leck Fell Fringe
4i     North Pendle Fringe
4j     West Pennine Fringes

Landscape Character

The fringes of moorland areas are transitional enclosed landscapes between the inhospitable moorland fells and the more intensively farmed land of the lowlands. They occur, generally above the 200m contour, throughout the study area and are characterised by a rolling landscape of marginal pastures divided by stone walls which reflect the underlying geology. Sheep grazing forms the predominant land use of these fringe areas which have often been improved either from semi-natural acidic, neutral or wet grassland. There is a great diversity of landform, colour and texture. Tree cover is sparse in these landscapes although trees are usually associated with farmsteads and gorse is common along the roadsides. Isolated stone farmsteads are often prominent on the steep slopes and are reached by dead-end lanes. There are also terraces of weavers and other workers cottages and sparse linear settlements, particularly along the winding roads towards the foot of the slopes. There is good preservation of archaeological sites in these marginal locations as a result of the non intensive agricultural practices adopted.

Parlick, Forest of Bowland
Typical view photo 18:
Parlick, Forest of Bowland

Physical Influences

The Moorland Fringes are almost entirely underlain by rocks of the Millstone Grit Series. The solid geology is overlain by soils whose thickness varies according to elevation and topography; the gentler, more sheltered slopes and broad terraces above the valleys have a thicker covering of soils than the moorland summits. This landscape type occupies the high ground fringing the main moorland blocks, typically at an altitude of between 215 and 250 m above sea level, sometimes extending to 300m or above.

The land which remains as unimproved agricultural grassland is extremely valuable for nature conservation and, with the moorlands, forms an intimate part of the rich mosaic of upland habitats in Lancashire, especially in Bowland. Of the drier meadows, the few which are traditionally managed to produce a summer hay crop, support a range of characteristic plants including ladys mantle, sneezewort and adders tongue. Where parts of the in-bye land are still undrained, moisture loving plants such as marsh marigold, yellow iris, ragged robin and marsh thistle thrive. Traditionally managed meadows also provide feeding grounds valuable for twite, while the wet rushy pastures support nationally important populations of birds such as curlew, redshank, lapwing and snipe. Acidic grasslands are also important for the survival of several upland bird species.

Human Influences

The hillside areas, which are set above the densely wooded valleys and below the exposed summits of the open moors, have a long history of land use and settlement. A particularly good example of this continuity is evident at High Park above Leck Beck. The comparatively small size of some land holdings results from the system of land inheritance whereby land was divided equally between sons. On good farmland this has created a landscape of scattered farmhouses in relatively close proximity. A large number of farmhouses are distinctive laithe houses which were part house, part stall/hay loft. The pace of enclosure grew during the 16th and 17th centuries and continued as a result of the Parliamentary Enclosure Acts of the 18th and 19th centuries.

There are a number of important trackways including the Long Causeway from Burnley to Halifax. Whilst some may have an ancient origin, possibly dating back to the prehistoric period, the network grew from industrial pressures and the need to transport finished goods and raw materials between urban centres. The packhorse ways associated with the transport of salt and wool, form particularly distinctive features of the landscape.

Recent landuse has focused upon sheep grazing; most farms have rights for summer grazing on the open moorland which forms an integral part of the hill farming system. The land has traditionally been used as in-bye land for winter grazing and to make hay in the summer to feed livestock through the winter months. The lower gentler slopes comprise older enclosures distinguished by their small size and irregular shape. On the higher slopes and steeper areas the later Parliamentary Enclosures are represented by large regular rectangular fields enclosed by robust walls. In the late 20th century, big bale silage has replaced hay making and many of the upland fields have been improved by drainage and reseeding to enhance productivity. Changes in farming practices ensure that damp pastures and hay meadows are now rare. With the decline in upland farming, more marginal farms have been abandoned and the fields taken over by rushes. Increasingly farmers are seeking to diversify to supplement falling incomes. Diversification is evident in occasional weavers cottages which incorporated a weaving workshop.


The Moorland Fringe landscape type occurs on the edges of moorland, generally above the 200m contour, throughout the study area. Their character is influenced by the underlying geology which reflects the character of buildings and field boundaries.


Character Areas



Trawden Fringes

The narrow moorland fringe of the western escarpment of the South Pennine ridge is a relatively narrow band of small-medium sized fields enclosed by gritstone walls and supplemented by post and wire fences. The grassland is generally improved, but some acid grassland remains in places. Shallow valley cloughs, containing remnants of semi-natural woodland, feed into the Calder. Many of these valley heads have been dammed to create small reservoirs at the junction with the moorland. There are also a number of small quarries which now support rich wildlife habitats. The settlement pattern is of scattered isolated local stone farmsteads. There are a number of parking and picnic places which have encouraged visitors; rubbish and fly-tipping indicate proximity to large centres of urban population. The wind farm at Coal Clough is a dramatic landscape feature on the edge of the moorland plateaux.


Rossendale Moorland Fringe

This character area fringes the smaller, fragmented blocks of moorland within Rossendale. The moorland fringe is generally above 350m here, a higher altitude than is typical. The field patterns indicate a late stage of enclosure with large regular fields enclosed by stone walls, which are generally in a poor state of repair, and large farmhouses at the end of narrow lanes at a high altitude. The predominant land use is agriculture with a combination of sheep and cattle grazing. However, there are also strong links with the urban/industrial economy and activities such as haulage, scrap metal recycling and small scale forestry; the farm complexes frequently include large sheds/barns and makeshift structures associated with these diversification activities. Quarrying has been an important land use with both active and disused quarries seen at the junction with the moor. Most grassland is improved, but the remaining unimproved/acid grassland provides important wildlife habitats.


Blackburn Moorland Fringe

These steep north facing slopes are cold and exposed, forming a link between the Pennine uplands and the urban fringes of Blackburn and Accrington. The character of the landscape is influenced by its proximity to these urban areas; a large number of roads and footpaths diminish its rural and remote character. It is a bleak upland landscape of fields, many reverting back to rushy moor grass due to lack of management. The walled field boundaries are also in a poor state of repair and the whole area conveys a sense of neglect. The presence of roads, traffic and views over the urban areas diminish its sense of remoteness and enclosures. The tower on top of Darwen Hill provides a local landmark.


Bowland Gritstone Fringes

The northern and western edges of the Central Bowland Fells are marginal farmed landscapes in the narrow, steep transitional zone between upland unenclosed moorland and the lower wooded fringes of the River Lune to the north and the Lancashire Plain to the west. This area falls at a relatively low altitude, between approximately 150m and 250m AOD. It is highly rural, unaffected by exploitation of resources, and sparsely populated; isolated farm dwellings at the end of dead-end tracks are built of distinctive, dark local gritstone. The underlying geology is also reflected in the gritstone walls whose dark colour contributes to the bleak appearance of the landscape. Rough pasture, low growing gorse, bramble and small windswept hawthorns add to the texture and exposed character of the gritstone fringes.


Bowland Limestone Fringes

These fringes contrast with the gritstone fringes in that they have a distinctive brightness of character. The underlying limestone influences the soils, vegetation and landform of the limestone fringes; although the moorland fringe occurs again between 150m and 250m AOD the landform is less dramatic and this transitional zone therefore occurs as a wider belt. The distinctive brightness is a result of the lusher and greener pastures, and the strong patterns of white limestone walls and barns. The landscape of the limestone fringes is also more wooded than that of the gritstone fringes. Limestone knolls, sometimes still supporting species-rich limestone grassland, are distinctive features in these limestone fringe areas. They are seen as smoothly rounded hills, although occasional rock outcrops and the presence of disused lime kilns are other clues to the underlying geology.


Longridge Fell Fringes

The undulating edges of Longridge Fell, are above the 150m contour line, and are influenced by its proximity to urban settlement. This area has been particularly affected by built development such as caravan parks, reservoirs, suburban development and golf courses, which offer alternative uses to agriculture but diminish its rural character. The settlement of Longridge, which overlooks the Ribble Valley, influences the character of the moorland fringe at its western end where the suburban edges of the settlement encroach into the rural upland landscape of the Moorland Fringes. Stone walls and Victorian reservoirs are particularly distinctive features of this landscape, although lack of management has led to barbed wire fences acting as stock proofing where walls are degraded and gaps have appeared. Well used roads, which travel through the area, afford excellent views to the surrounding lowlands.


South Pendle Fringe

The South Pendle Fringe surrounds the gritstone moors of Pendle Hill, White Moor and Burn Moor. It is a highly textural landscape; gorse, rushes, wind blown trees and upland stone walls all contribute to the traditional character of the moorland fringe. Although it is a typical gritstone fringe, it is influenced by its proximity to the East Lancashire valleys below, both in terms of development and recreational pressure.

There is a particularly dense network of footpaths and winding lanes, and the distinctive form of Pendle Hill forms a backdrop to views from them. The settlement pattern is dominated by scattered stone farmsteads and hamlets, with the villages of Barley and Roughlee nestling within the valley of Pendle Water. Tourism impact is evident at Roughlee where there are two caravan parks and at Barley, which has a visitor centre and outdoor activity centre and is the focus for outdoor activities, as well as a base for walking in the surrounding hills. The narrow valley of Pendle Water is a significant feature and contains areas of woodland, mainly conifer plantations.


Leck Fell Fringe

The fringe of Leck Fell is notable for its large scale smooth landform, limestone walls field barns and farmsteads. Farms are marginal and pasture is rushy. The area contains a number of regular plantations and other mixed woodland, mainly associated with large estates. Leck Beck is a significant feature, traversing the area on its route from the fells to join the river Lune. High Park is an extensive area of multi-period settlement from the Neolithic to post Roman times. The presence of a medieval deer park has contributed to the excellent preservation of these early earth works.


North Pendle Fringe

The North Pendle Fringe has a much smoother landform and more rural character than the South Pendle Fringe. Although the main features of the moorland fringe are all present, this area is sheltered from the impacts of the urban conurbations by the dramatic grit outcrop of Pendle Hill. The difference in topography may be attributed to its geology; layers of limestone and sandstone and boulder clay overlie the millstone grit on this edge producing a relatively smooth profile.


West Pennine Fringes

A transitional landscape between the unenclosed land of the west Pennine moors and the enclosed landscape of the industrial foothills below on the west fringes of the West Pennine Moors. The underlying millstone grit is close to the surface on the moorland fringe and the landscape is characterised by marginal pastures with scattered farmsteads. As is typical of the West Pennine Moor fringes, the character is influenced by industrial activity with reservoirs, mines and quarries scattered across the upper hillsides. A high density of public footpaths provides good public access and the wooded gardens on the hillside above Rivington Reservoir provide an unusual feature in the moorland fringe.

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