What’s an AONB?
An AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) is an area that has “significant landscape value”. Or in general terms, is rather stunning.
The implications of being rather stunning are that the landscape gets a little extra protection and things like roads, parking and developments are handled with sensitivity.
AONBs are a great thing to check out if you’re looking for quiet, scenic landscape. They don’t have the same high profile as the National Parks like Dartmoor, Snowdonia and the Lake District. Many people don’t even realise that they live within or near one.
If you live anywhere around Farnham, Dorking or Guildford – you are right in or on the doorstep of the Surrey Hills AONB. You knew that, didn’t you??
Facts if you want them
There are 49 AONBs at the time of writing and more waiting to be awarded that status. There’s 35 in England, 4 in Wales, 1 that’s rather funkily in England and Wales (Wye Valley) and 9 in Ireland. You’ll find more details and a map which is way beyond my technical capacity on the AONB website here.
You might have noticed I have not yet mentioned Scotland… instead of AONBs, Scotland has National Scenic Areas and it’s no surprise there’s lots of them, over 40 totally scrumptious areas and described as areas of “unsurpassed beauty.” Take that, England and Wales!!! I love them all.
Is an AONB the same as a Natural Park? In terms of what you see, yes – lovely stuff, quiet countryside. The aim of designating land as an AONB is to conserve the natural beauty of the landscape whilst meeting the need for quiet countryside and having a regard for residents and local businesses.
Behind the scenes, the administration of these two natural designations is a bit different. National Parks (13 in England and Wales) have their own authorities that ensure there is no unsympathetic development within the area. They also tend to be pretty big.
AONBs on the other hand, are administered by the local authority and whilst there is intent to keep them looking pretty, and there’s different standards of legislation and red tape to be enforced.