Exploring the Park

The landscape of Northumberland National Park is appreciated by millions of people every year. It is here for all to enjoy, but have you ever stopped to think how the landscape came to be so special? Why does the landscape of Hadrian’s Wall look so different to the Cheviots and Simonside?

Geodiversity is the link between landscape, people and their culture. It is the variety of geological environments, phenomena and processes that make those landscapes, rocks, minerals, fossils and soils that provide the framework for life on earth.

View from Simonside crags across the Coquet Valley towards the Cheviots.
View from Simonside crags across the Coquet Valley towards the Cheviots, Northumberland National Park, England

What is Geodiversity?

Geodiversity may be defined as the variety of rocks, fossils, minerals, natural processes, landforms and soils that underlie and determine the character of our landscape and environment. It is fundamental to almost every aspect of life.

Britain’s geodiversity is the bedrock of our environment, it is the source of much of our wealth, an important factor in our cultural identity, and will play a vital role in our future development.

Geological resources provide the raw materials for civilisation; from fuels, water supply, metal ores to bulk and industrial minerals and building materials. A clear understanding of geology is vital to the design and siting of buildings, roads, railways and airports as well as to the safe disposal of waste, and the management of a wide range of natural and man-made hazards.

An appreciation of geodiversity is important to a full understanding of many aspects of the natural world. In particular, it has a profound influence on where habitats and species are found. It also has an important impact on the economic activities and history of settlement in any given place.

It is fundamental to how our natural environment works and to the way we live and work.

The geodiversity of a region is as important a facet of its natural heritage as its wildlife interests and it can be one of the most significant areas of heritage interest, especially in regions in areas of high landscape value, or those previously or currently affected by significant mineral extraction.

Learn more

Find out more about Geodiversity.

An Area’s Geodiversity

An area’s geodiversity includes:

  • The broad bio-geographical, geological and geomorphological character of the area
  • Key natural systems and processes within the area, such as fluvial processes
  • Main landscape features, including those which, due to their linear or continuous nature, are important for the migration, dispersal and genetic exchanges of plants and animals
  • Sites where representative examples of the area’s geological deposits and features may be seen Sites which are deemed worthy of some form of designation or protection for the quality of the earth science features displayed
  • The whereabouts and nature of past and present working of mineral products
  • Sites and features currently employed in interpreting earth science The influence of earth science in shaping the built and man-made environment
  • The inter-relationship and inter-dependence between earth science and other interests Materials collections and site and other records relating to the district
  • Published literature and maps The historical legacy of research within the area

Geodiversity Audit & Action Plan

This plan sets out actions for geodiversity in Northumberland National Park. It does not claim to be conclusive, but rather aims to be a stimulus for action. It is hoped that the plan will evolve as more people and organisations become involved in the process. The action plan is designed to be revised and updated.

The plan includes suggestions for lead partners to take forward each of the actions, but this is in no way intended to be exclusive. Interested groups and individuals are encouraged to get in touch if they would like to be involved or have ideas for actions. The plan covers the following items.

  1. Contact and organise local interest in geology
  2. Designate and maintain data on important geological sites
  3. Monitor condition of sites
  4. Ensure protection of sites through local and regional policies and strategies
  5. Practical conservation
  6. Geodiversity of active quarries
  7. Local use of stone
  8. Interpretation and public awareness
  9. Education and training
  10. Research
  11. Funding

The principal aim of this plan is to provide the framework necessary for informing the sustainable management, planning, conservation and interpretation of all aspects of the geodiversity of the Northumberland National Park and surrounding area well into the future.

As the first comprehensive plan for a National Park it is intended to serve as an example of good practice for National Parks and other protected areas in Great Britain.

Download our Geodiversity Audit and Action Plan – PDF File

Download our Geodiversity Action Plan – PDF File


Geodiversity and Planning

Although the parallel concept of biodiversity has long been established as an essential element in sustainable planning and management strategies, until relatively recently geodiversity was commonly taken for granted underpinning biodiversity.

However, the publication in 2005 of Planning Policy Statement (PPS) 9: Biodiversity and Geological Conservation, which sets out the Government’s national policies on the protection of biodiversity and geological conservation, introduces the concept of geodiversity into the planning process.

It is now stated clearly that both Regional Spatial Strategies and Local Development Frameworks must have regard to the national guidance on geodiversity set out in PPS9.

Complementary to PPS9, Planning for Biodiversity and Geological Conservation – A Guide to Good Practice (2006) provides guidance, via case studies and examples, on the ways in which regional planning bodies and local planning authorities can help deliver the national policies in PPS9 and comply with legal requirements.

The key principles in PPS9 require that planning policies and decisions not only avoid, mitigate or compensate for harm, but seek ways to enhance and restore biodiversity and geology. The guidance suggests ways in which these principles might be achieved.

These include identifying the geodiversity value of previously developed sites and the opportunities for incorporating this in developments, as well as recognizing areas of geological value, which would benefit from enhancement and management.

Geodiversity must be considered at every stage of the planning and development process, and at all scales (local, regional and national), following clear policy guidelines on the best ways to conserve it. Perhaps the greatest threat to geodiversity is inappropriate development.

New developments often destroy or conceal valuable geological exposures and disrupt the natural processes that helped form them. When any development – large or small – is proposed, planners should assess its potential impacts on geodiversity, take steps to mitigate any damage that cannot be prevented, and identify opportunities that might benefit geodiversity.

For example, some developments might allow the creation of more rock exposures, or offer an opportunity to re-establish natural systems; in others, planning permission may insist on mitigation, such as future monitoring and maintenance work.

Road improvement works may require the construction of new cuttings and such operations offer opportunities to reveal hitherto unexposed geological sections, either temporarily during construction, or as permanent features.

Geodiversity is not and should not be regarded merely as concerned with conservation of geological sites or features. As an essential part of natural heritage it influences fields as varied as economic development and historical and cultural heritage.

Geodiversity Sites

A number of Geodiversity sites have been identified as part of this study. They have been selected as representative examples of particular geological features in the context of Northumberland National Park and the surrounding area. They do not replace but stand alongside, SNCIs, SSSIs, and other designated sites.

Find out more about Geodiversity Sites in Northumberland National Park – PDF File