News 31.08.2023

Cheshire Sandstone Ridge AONB project

Gillespies, supported by Camargue and South Coast GIS, has been appointed by Natural England to assess the Sandstone Ridge in Cheshire.

The project will recommend whether Natural England should designate a new Cheshire Sandstone Ridge Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) - and if so, which specific areas. Securing this designation will protect the area for future generations.

Over the next five months, we will gather evidence from detailed GIS mapping, fieldwork and stakeholder consultation, and assess landscape factors which contribute to natural beauty, including scenic quality, landscape condition, tranquillity and relative wildness. After a thorough review of all these elements we will make our expert recommendation on whether the Cheshire Sandstone Ridge meets the rigorous criteria for designation as a nationally protected AONB.

If selected and agreed at Board level by Natural England, the next part of the project will involve more detailed work, including comprehensive consultation with stakeholders, communities and the public. These will allow Natural England to decide if the area should be recommended for statutory designation as one of England’s most important and protected landscapes.

The Sandstone Ridge is one of Cheshire's most distinctive landscapes. It standing out above the surrounding plain, between the Mersey valley and the county boundary with Shropshire. The 230sq km area of rolling hills and sandstone escarpments is rich in heritage, archaeology, wildlife, and culture. The Sandstone Trail runs for 55km along the ridge, affording panoramic views to Merseyside, the Shropshire Hills, Peak District and Welsh Hills. These show the strong contrast in landscape character and topography between the ridge and its surrounding plain.

For more information, see the Sandstone Ridge Trust website

Natural England is the government’s statutory adviser on landscapes in England, with duties and powers to conserve and enhance landscapes that include the designation of National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The designation process takes several years, and is a collaborative process, including local stakeholders at every step.

Photographs copyright Gillespies:

  • above - Sandstone Ridge, photographed from the remains of Beeston Castle
  • below - the view of the Cheshire plain from the ridge