An Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) is defined as an area in England, Northern Ireland, or Wales that has considerable landscape value.
Being incredibly rich in visual beauty due to the presence of various mountains, lakes, forests, and coasts, such areas have been designated for conservation. This means they are protected in a manner similar to national parks in the country, but the authorities responsible for providing protection lack planning powers.
Additionally, public outdoor recreation opportunities are more restricted in these areas compared to national parks. This guide takes a look at the various Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in Cornwall, what they have to offer, and how they are managed.
Areas Of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) In Cornwall
The Cornwall Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) is spread across 958 km, covering about 27% of the total area of the county, and comprises 12 separate regions. When taken together, the total area of the AONB exceeds that of the Dartmoor National Park. The 12 areas within the AONB include the following:
Hartland covers the area between Morwenstow and Kilkhampton and has a very diverse geography that includes hidden valleys, wild heathland, and coastal seascapes. It also includes Coombe Valley, which is a part of Woodford Woods, and the Coombe Valley County Nature Site, which connects to Duckpool Beach, close to Sandymouth Bay Beach.
Additionally, this AONB has several hidden hamlets, like Stowe Barton. Morwenstow, a civil parish and a part of the region known for Hawker’s Hut. The hut was built by the famous poet Reverend Robert Hawker and visited by writers and poets like Charles Kingsley and Alfred Tennyson.
2. Pentire Point To Widemouth
This region is famous for having the highest cliffs in Cornwall, and its most well-known clifftops include The Rumps, Tintagel, Rocky Valley, and Boscastle. There are also several beaches here, such as Tregardock Beach, Trebarwith Strand, and coves like Port Quin and Port Isaac.
Aside from that, Millook Woods comes under this Cornwall AONB, and medieval ruins such as those of the Iron Age Hillfort and Tintagel Castle can also be found here.
3. The Camel Estuary
The Camel Estuary is a river valley that connects Rock to Padstow and includes beaches such as Daymer, Polzeath, and Rock Bay. It lies on the north coast, and the moorlands here are well-suited for walking, running, or cycling. This protected landscape is one of the most beautiful in England and can be explored via the Camel Trail.
4. Carnewas To Stepper Point
This Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty has some of the best coastal sceneries and is home to sandy beaches, including Harlyn Bay, Trevone Bay, Porthcothan, Constantine Bay, and others. Visitors to this AONB can take a 7-day vacation and visit each of the famous Seven Bays.
Apart from those, the most popular sightseeing spots include Bedruthan Steps, Stepper Point, and Trevose Head.
5. St. Agnes
This area starting from Cligga Head, close to Perranporth, goes up to Porthtowan. It includes several coastal destinations, such as Chapel Porth and Trevaunance Cove. In addition, the Special Area Of Conservation at Penhale Sands and the Cornish Mining World Heritage Site of Wheal Coates are noteworthy spots in this region.
St. Agnes Beacon, which goes up to 200 metres in height, provides a stunning view of the protected landscapes in the surrounding areas.
6. Godrevy To Portreath
Another site worth visiting in the Cornwall area lies between Godrevy Point and Portreath, which is famous for its lighthouse that overlooks St. Ives Bay. It also has several tiny coves and high cliffs, each with a distinctive character and various natural and heritage features. Hell’s Mouth is the most well-known cove due to its seal colony, while Godrevy Beach is a favourite spot for surfers.
7. West Penwith
West Penwith is surrounded by high cliffs and stretches from Zennor to St. Ives, covering Land’s End, Sennen, and Cape Cornwall. It has several historic sites, locally significant villages and gardens, mining heritage sites, and hidden coves. While the population in this area is sparse, there are a few small fishing villages, and Sennen Cove is also close, which is the largest beach here.
8. South Coast – Western
The South Coast (Western) of Cornwall begins from St. Michael’s Mount and Marazion and passes through the Lizard Peninsula, the southernmost point of England. This area has many protected landscapes within National Nature Reserves, Riverlands at Helford, Cadgwith and Kynance coves, and famous coastal locations like Porthleven.
While the Lizard Peninsula has several walking trails that provide an excellent view of the world-renowned coastline of Cornwall, Kynance Cove is also popular among artists and painters.
9. South Coast – Central
Featuring a large number of landmarks, like St. Anthony’s Lighthouse, Pendennis and St. Mawes Castles, this AONB lies east of Falmouth. You can find several beaches here, such as Portloe, Porthluney, Porthcurnick, and Porthscato, as well as green spaces like Lost Gardens of Heligan, Trelissick Garden, and Enys Gardens.
10. South Coast – Eastern
The South Coast (Eastern) of Cornwall runs along the Fowey River from Gribbin Head to the Lantivet and Lantic Beaches. The twin towns of Looe, Talland Bay, and Polperro are all present in the area.
While Looe is a fishing port and a bustling town, neighbouring Polperro serves as the harbour. You can also visit the sheltered cove of Readymoney, on the southern side of Fowey, and the Lantic Bay for a swim.
11. Rame Head
Rame Head has a medieval chapel and a sheltered valley where Kingsand and Cawsand are located, both with unparalleled natural beauty. On the other side lies Mount Edgecumbe County Park, in the direction of the Plymouth Sand. This Cornwall AONB is best known for its rockpools, which are found throughout the year at Cawsand Bay.
12. Bodmin Moor
Bodmin Moor does not lie on the coastline, unlike the other 11 areas of outstanding natural beauty. It lies in the interior and features fantastic waterfalls, ancient woodlands, granite peaks, and historic sites. There is also a Cornish Mining World Heritage Site, conservation areas, and nature reserves.
Thanks to its natural and heritage features, Bodmin Moor has been an inspiration for poetry and writing, most famous for being featured in the Poldark drama series.
Management Of The Areas
All Areas Of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in Cornwall are governed by the National Parks and Access to The Countryside Act 1949. This Act divides the entire region into the 12 designated landscape and seascape sections.
Additionally, Section 85 of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act, 2000, also plays an important part in the management of the entire region. It directs relevant authorities to discharge their duties in a manner that ensures the conservation and enhancement of the natural beauty of the 12 areas.
Section 89 of the same Act directs all Local Planning Authorities with an AONB in their administrative area to develop a 5-year management plan. This management plan makes separate provisions for each of the 12 areas while ensuring they align with their objectives and own local policies.
All of these detailed local sections reflect information about different areas that can be used by individuals, community groups, and organisations. Such information can be used for protecting biodiversity, landscape character areas, and local heritage through neighbourhood plans or local partnerships.
Additionally, they can be quite helpful in supporting the neighbourhood plan’s development process, such as educational programmes or funding applications by a community group.
A Partnership of 21 organisations is responsible for managing the Cornwall AONB according to the guidelines stated by the law. The most prominent among these are the Cornwall Council, Cornwall Heritage Trust, Cornwall Wildlife Trust, and National Trust.
Meetings of the Partnership are held twice a year, where implementation of the 5-year plan is discussed and evaluated. This Partnership advises the Cornwall Council and similar governing organisations on aspects like project development and planning.
A team of officers, known as the Cornwall AONB Unit, supports the Partnership through various actions, such as undertaking deliveries, accessing resources, and supporting partner organisations.
While England has several regions known for their breathtaking natural beauty, Cornwall is the number one choice for many. Known for its charming sandy beaches, natural woodlands, and breathtaking cliffs, this county undoubtedly possesses considerable natural value.
Designating these areas as Areas Of Outstanding Natural Beauty is an effective way of conserving the beauty and natural heritage of these places. With a 5-year plan in place, the responsible authorities and local communities can protect and enhance the value these areas offer while promoting tourism and related activities.
Such activities are generally undertaken in a sustainable manner to ensure minimum impact on the AONB. If you’re planning to visit any of these areas in Cornwall, make sure to check up on what is allowed and prepare accordingly.
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